SA star scores high at school

Neale Emslie

PUTTING a smile on children's faces was a special moment for South African cricketer Alviro Petersen as he enjoyed a happy return to old haunts in Gelvandale and Algoa Park yesterday.

The occasion was an equipment hand-over by the Alviro Petersen Foundation, which the Proteas opening batsman has set up to assist those in need.

Yesterday, Petersen donated equipment to Fontein Primary School – where he enrolled as a pupil in 1987 – Gelvan High and Otto du Plessis.

And the smiles which greeted Petersen at Fontein, where he learnt to play cricket, made it an occasion to remember for someone who is determined to give back to the community.

Asked how he felt about making a difference, Petersen said: "Firstly it's nice to give to people, but the one thing that will stick with me is to see the smile on the kids' faces – that's so important. I know some of them can't afford a cricket bat, or this and that, and to be in the fortunate position of being able to provide something is obviously magnificent.

"As a person, it's the right thing to give back to communities who can't afford it, but at the same time as a foundation we believe all are equal and all deserve an opportunity to pursue their dreams.

"... whatever they want to be, we would love to assist them, but we don't want to just donate some kit and then disappear – we want to build a relationship."

The way he was mobbed afterwards for his autograph suggested he was on the right track.

Fontein principal Elmer Williams remembers Petersen as a pupil and told the school he was always on the playground during breaks, playing cricket, and that "he only counted in hundreds".

"When I told him to count one, two, three, he would say 'one hundred, two hundred, three hundred', and that's why he makes so many hundreds today," Williams joked.

Petersen, who will be in the frontline against Australian fast bowling star Mitchell Johnson when the first test is played next week, said he had many happy memories of his childhood in Gelvandale.

"... I lived just up the road here ... To come back to give something to the community where you have grown up is great."

Petersen is determined to use his position to help schoolchildren, as well as the community.

"I set up the foundation with the hope of contributing to South Africa and what I'm trying to do is focus on projects where I have grown up and where my career path has gone. The key was to start with the schools I attended – and hopefully from here we will go on to others."

At Fontein Primary, the foundation donated equipment for the sports Petersen played at the school – hockey soccer and cricket – while cricket kit was donated to the high schools.

"Besides the donation, I think the main focus is also on the community and that people must understand that if you want to achieve something, you have to follow a certain path," Petersen said. "... you need to stay away from the activities that are not right, such as drugs, gangsterism, etc. There is a path that you can follow. Sport is that path and I think it's important to educate the communities and to give them the tools to make real change."