by Gerhard le Roux
The Community Police Forum (CPF) and police are meeting with the principal of the local school to discuss some issues regarding transport of the schoolchildren, but soon the meeting changed to a familiar tone I have heard so many times.
“What are there for these children to do? They are idle! There are no activities to keep them busy! Nobody is making any extra effort to help these children! If I were in their shoes, I would also do the wrong things that they are doing!”
I could sense the despair and frustration of the police officer and principal. They have a heart for the community, but feel like they are fighting a losing battle against forces way too strong for them to overcome.
Gerhard le Roux with his wife, Elmane and 10 children.
Although it cannot be regarded as the poorest among the poor, Onseepkans, like so many similar communities all along the Orange River, abides under a looming sense of futility.
Editor’s note: Onseepkans, South Africa is a rural farming community in the Northern Cape area on the border of South Africa and Angola with a high population of migrant farm workers and their children live.
Many of the people have fallen into a state of just existing, day to day, with no vision and hope for the future.
How can you fight the despair of rejection and abuse, broken family structures, absent father figures and alcohol and drug abuse? Can you blame the children of these communities for not excelling at school, gambling, smoking marijuana, drinking, living immoral and doing wrong?
“I want to start a chess club,” I spoke up.
I’m still not sure why the thought came to me. Somehow, deep inside it just felt like the right thing to do. As chairperson of the local Community Police Forum (CPF), I presented the idea in the monthly meeting.
The CPF is a forum comprising of members of the local community and serves as a body that works for better cooperation between the local police and community. It also strives to implement positive projects uplifting the community and youth. Five months ago, I was elected by the Onseepkans community as chairperson of the CPF Onseepkans.
The other members of the Forum were excited about the idea of a chess club. Even some of the policemen were excited. One even chimed in,“I used to play chess on provincial level many years ago! I would love to join.”
When Steve Evers and Kent Reisenauer visited us in August 2018, I shared my vision for a chess club and asked if ITMI could help us sponsor the first 10 chess sets. In September, we received our chess sets and had our first chess class in the local community hall.
Editor’s note: ITMI was happy to help the le Rouxs reach the children in their community. To the many who faithfully and sacrificially support ITMI, know that we could respond quickly and positively to Gerhard’s request because of your involvement!
When I arrived, it was only me, the local Police captain and one of his police members. I thought to myself, “Another meaningless project with no interest from the local community.”
The captain asked me how it was advertised and remarked that maybe more time is needed for it to get known in the community. I saw myself packing up and going home, explaining to my family that no one really showed up.
Then something unexpected happened.
The next moment a few children appeared in the doorway. Then some more children. Some young people and... even more children!
I had to borrow the captain’s cell phone to call my wife. “Bring the children over, I need help!”
That was the start of the chess club. Now we have some regulars that come every week and after the first three weeks some of them were already playing full games!
It is a wonderful opportunity to pray with them, win their trust, and teach them discipline, order and concentration skills.
Gerhard's daughter, Talitha, helps Onseepkans kids learn to play chess.
“We started a chess club,” I told the school principal.
His face lit up. “That is something good! Our children are clever! They will do well! Can you start next week at the school also?”
Editor’s note: It is generous donations from ITMI supporters is what enables us respond quickly to immediate needs in the field. Your gifts are making a difference for the kids in Onseepkans, South Africa!