On a cold, wet and misty morning I sat down to interview the ever busy radio personality and businessman Swift Mpoloka. He is also the chairman of the NGO, Pula Sports Development Association. We chatted at Pula Sports innovative centre, the First Bontleng Futsal Park.
I’m shocked that I have never heard of this fantastic idea and space. The park is safe place for underprivileged children to come together, learn and play sports. It has multi-use sports court, a play area, a thatched lapa and a restaurant area. It’s also a recycling drop off place. This oasis has a lot going on which is why I had to find out more from Swift.
Let’s start with the basics, Swift. Why did Pula Sports start, and why The Bontleng Park?
It started with myself, Sobukwe Mothobi, Ruri Groth, Malebo Raditladi and Tymon Makofi. We came together because a lot of people are complaining about the alcohol and drugs in Botswana, but no one is doing anything about it. So we said let’s use sports as a pull factor to address social challenges in underprivileged communities. That’s why we formed Pula Sports Development Association. Then we said let’s build a sports park that is also an educational and environmentally forward-leading park.
On a personal level why are you so passionate about the project?
Look I didn’t do well in school. I felt like I was misplaced. But I think there is place in world for children who love sport, that love the arts; that want to dance and to paint. I said ‘let me make that happen, let me give children a space that the educational system isn’t catering for.’
Also if we want our country to compete on a global scale for sport we have to start at a grass roots level. We are losing talent by saying children only need to be mainstream educated. We need a balance.
What makes it an environmental park too?
The surface of the field is actually 600 square metres and it acts as a water catchment area. The gutters run to underneath the lapa where there is a 46,000 liter rain water tank. Pula Sports wanted a green space. It’s important to teach children to take care of their environment as well as play sport. That’s why we did eco buildings and built with beer bottles. You might think it is trash but actually you can build with it.
We also did solar power. The sports seats are given shade by the solar panels and then that gives power to pitches flood lights. The loos are eco dry compost toilets. We are off the grid completely.
How did Pula Sports get funding for The First Bontleng Futsal Park?
We sourced it from various private sector entities that paid direct for building materials. We asked them to get on board with a self-sustaining park that brings about social change.
The land is city council land and because we have added value to the community they have provided us with a security guard.
The great thing now is that corporates book the space and that is how we pay the park manager. So you see if it’s to last it needs to self-sustaining.
What does Pula Sports do for the community?
The beauty of this space is that it can serve the community from a 2 year old to a 65 year old.
However children are our biggest stakeholders. Instead of having children roaming around and potentially getting hurt they can now come here. It’s free; we do try and encourage children to bring a piece of recycling as their entrance fee. (editors note: look here for more spots to recycle)
Our park manager did a course in safe guarding children. So he is accredited as a child minder.
We also have a partnership with Bontleng Primary School where we do different grass roots sports development. Different coaches come in and teach volley ball, basketball, tennis etc.
We also run educational programs with various partners. Children can learn various things from reading, personal health, to finance.
The idea is build the infrastructure, the people will come and change will happen. Stop complaining and start doing, be the change you want to see.
I see you have lots of vegetables growing. What’s that about?
The idea there is to give the area to the unemployed woman in the community. They can come and learn how to grow food and use this space too. However it takes a while to crank the wheels of change. I often say changing the world is the most difficult of all jobs. It’s an area of the park that needs more energy but we will get there.
So what’s next?
Our hope is that we have built the park and people can see that is working. Pula Sports would like to build more in different communities. The idea is to shown Government this is very good initiative we’re hopeful they’ll come on board to help us build more.
Ideally we want one in every space you can find. The great thing is you can tailor make it to best serve the community.
As Swift and I wound up our chat I looked around at what Pula Sports Association had created. It is an incredible initiative and we definitely need more! My only hope is we get one in every community. If you would like to be the change you want to see and help in some way get in touch with Pula Sports Association (NGO). Or just ring Swift on 71 314646. As Swift says, stop complaining and start doing.