In celebration of National Street Children’s Day 2013, Umlazi children’s soccer team, Um Um Umlazi was treated to a morning filled with fun, games and treats at Hirsch’s Umlazi. Umlazi, derived from the Zulu word “umlaza” , describing the sour acid produced from fermented milk or sour milk, is the second largest township in South Africa, after Soweto. The population of Umlazi is estimated at over 400 000 people, and according to Census 2001 only 26% of the population have completed Grade 12. As far as employment is concerned, only 28% of the working age population in Umlazi are employed in the formal economy.
From these statistics rose Um Um Umlazi, like a phoenix, from the ashes of poverty and lack of education. Um Um Umlazi, a mixed children’s soccer team, is a group of bright-eyed children, some abandoned and others orphaned. They flock together on the streets of Umlazi with a common goal, to change their lives for the better. While some of the children do have homes, they live with grandparents and relatives, as their own parents have passed away. Others in the group are not as lucky though and find shelter on the streets and homeless shelters scattered throughout the township. This however all changes when the group of eleven boys and girls get together, and by joining their strengths, achieve great heights. This tellsa story of hope for a better future, and the determination to succeed against all odds through a passion for soccer. The mere mention of the word, or the sight of a soccer ball causes an instant reaction of joy and hope on their faces.
As part of many community projects Hirsch’s sponsor, Hirsch Umlazi and Mary Ann’s Kitchen got the soccer team together at the community kitchen in their store to encourage them to keep on pushing forward. The morning was filled with cooking activities for the kids, a motivational talk and a breakfast feast prepared for them by the women from the community kitchen. The team members also received their own soccer balls and daily necessities like washing powder, Comfort and soap, sponsored by Unilever. “I am so happy, and when I grow up I am going to be big and strong to help other children just like me” said 13 year old team member, Nonto Khoza.