An abandoned child's dream comes true - he's a junior Golden Lion

25 December 2018 - 06:00
By IAVAN PIJOOS
Phumlani Mchunu achieved one of his dreams when he was selected to be part of the Golden Lions school level sides.
Image: Alon Skuy Phumlani Mchunu achieved one of his dreams when he was selected to be part of the Golden Lions school level sides.

It takes hard work and a dream to rise above your circumstances.

Phumlani Mchunu, who was abandoned as a child, achieved one of his dreams when he was selected to be part of the Golden Lions school level sides.

When he was younger his dream was to become a policeman because, "growing up and watching movies, you will see the police saving the day at the end".

Phumlani is from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. When he was 10, social workers placed him in the Rhema Children's Village situated on a hill in Yeoville, Johannesburg.  

He said living at the home was like living with one "big happy family".

"Every day we play soccer, listen to music and do our homework. We are all brothers and sisters here." 

Social worker Zimbali Ndlovu said the home caters for children aged six to 18. In most cases the children had been abandoned, their families were unable to look after them, or they had been abused.  

"We try to work with them to overcome their past dramatic experiences. Our main role is to help them overcome that and make sure they are healed when they are released to their families. We also offer counselling and psychologists to those who need it."

Ndlovu, who started working at the home in 2012, said the children were screened and placed in local schools.

"My first encounter with Phumlani, he was a trouble child because of the way he was brought up. He had a lot of anger and we referred him for counselling and to psychologists."

He was also struggling academically, but had since received help from the home.

Phumlani Mchunu sits between his foster mother Ontombe Sithole and Calvin Andrews, who runs the children's village in Yeoville, Johannesburg.
Image: ALON SKUY Phumlani Mchunu sits between his foster mother Ontombe Sithole and Calvin Andrews, who runs the children's village in Yeoville, Johannesburg.

Calvin Andrews, who runs the village, said their responsibility was to make sure that children were provided with a safe home, were looked after, protected and fed.

He described Phumlani as a leader and older brother to the other children. "He is a calm personality, he is strong and gets on very well with my two daughters. His is a gentle soul."

Phumlani's rugby journey started in 2014. He said he used to be a soccer fanatic, but that had changed.

"I did not know rugby, I was into soccer. We had a rugby season so they wanted people to try out. I said it's a new sport so let me try and see how it pans out."

One of the coaches saw his potential and gave him one-on-one training for two weeks. After that he played a few games for the under 15 and under 16 teams.

"I skipped second team and started playing for the first team because I was too good for the second team," Phumlani said with a big smile on his face.

In his first year of playing for the first team, he was selected for the under 18 Golden Lions Craven Week side.

He also represented the SA LSEN team (learners with special educational needs) at the SA Rugby Union Academy Week of 2017 at St Stithians College in Johannesburg.

Phumlani said his role models are Lions and Springbok player Warren Whiteley and former Springbok Victor Matfield, and that rugby had taught him the value of team work, discipline and respect.

His dream now is to play for the South African national rugby sevens team, the Blitzboks.

Phumlani Mchunu's dream is to play for the South African national rugby sevens team, the Blitzboks.
Image: Alon Skuy Phumlani Mchunu's dream is to play for the South African national rugby sevens team, the Blitzboks.

During school holidays, Phumlani and the other children at the village go to "hosting families".

Phumlani has been going to Ontombe Sithole and her family in Soweto for the past five years.

"I take him like my son. He is doing everything like the rest of my kids. He is obedient and listens when I talk, and has respect," she said, adding that they would continue to help him achieve his dream.

"I hope that one day his dreams come true and I wish him all the best for his future."