2010 Tseelana Market benefiting The Wilson Foundation

The 2nd annual Tseelana Market benefiting The Wilson Foundation will be held on Thursday, October 21 from 5 – 8 pm and Friday, October 22 from 10 am – 4 pm.  The event will be held in a fabulous newly built home at 7501 Turtle Creek Boulevard (corner of Turtle Creek and Hanover) in University Park.  This home was constructed with extraordinary attention to detail by noted area homebuilder Ryan Osborne of Ryan Osborne Homes.  This exquisite property is currently for sale so be sure to make time to tour when you come for the Market!  

Special thanks to Ryan Osborne for opening this beautiful home to The Wilson Foundation for our 2010 Tseelana Market!

The entrance to the Ngata YaSetso Cultural Village

Our hearts are heavy today.  This morning we received word from Marion Frew, our Wilson Foundation representative in Vaalwater, South Africa, that our friend Zach Molekoa passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last night.

Zach was a young man from the Leseding Township who started the Ngata YaSetso Cultural Village, located next to the rubbish dump.  The mission of the Cultural Village was to provide shelter, food and homework support for some of the AIDS orphans in the township who had nowhere to go.  Zach was also focused on helping the kids keep their African culture, and he taught them cultural songs and dances that they performed for visitors from the nearby game lodges. 

Dancers at the Cultural Village

Trisha and I visited Zach last fall, and he proudly showed us how he had taken rubbish from the township’s dump to create his village.  Zach had a gift of taking other people’s trash — old tin plates, broken pieces of rock or brick,  cardboard, plastic bottles and other items– and repurposing them to create a charming and inviting place, right in the middle of total poverty.  He pointed to his shack next door, but was embarrassed to show us inside because he hadn’t made up his ‘bed’, which consisted of a pallet on the dirt floor! 

Just a few weeks ago when we were in South Africa, we interviewed Zach and the kids at the Cultural Village for our new film.  What progress he had made in the past year since we had last visited!  The Cultural Village now has proper thatch huts for the children to sleep in, a homework hut, and even a bathroom with a sink — amazing, considering where it was located — which he constructed for the visitors who came to the Village to see the young people perform.  He was full of hope and optimism for his project, and he truly had a heart for the children he was helping.

We are truly saddened by the sudden loss of such an inspiring, creative and good-hearted young man. 

Trisha Wilson, Tori Mannes and Amy McEvoy with Zach Molekoa

We don’t know what will happen to the children under his care, who were among the township’s most vulnerable, but we hope someone will step in to carry on his work.

God bless you, Zach, and thank you for the great work you did during your short life.  You inspired us with your enthusiasm and creativity, and you will be missed.

Tori Mannes, Executive Director

Many of The Wilson Foundation’s friends and supporters have heard about Simon Makinta, the young man from Leseding Township who we have been helping for the past several years.

Just over two years ago, Simon was a young man with big dreams but no way to achieve them.  He had just graduated from Meetsetshehla High School in Vaalwater and had no prospects for employment.  After meeting Trisha Wilson and Marion Frew, our local Wilson Foundation colleague in Vaalwater, Simon persuaded the foundation to help him further his education and pursue his dream:  to fly.

Simon Makinta with Marion Frew and Trisha Wilson

With funding support from The Wilson Foundation, Simon graduated from Jeppe College in March with a hospitality degree.  The next step was to attend a cabin crew training program. He completed his course last week and today we received word that he has passed his Civil Aviation examination so he will become licensed to work for an airline!

It hasn’t been easy:  along the way, Simon was mugged (twice) and robbed of everything he had.  Since English is not his first language, he struggled to understand the material in some of his classes.  He often did not have enough money for food.  To enroll in cabin crew training he had to learn to swim proficiently.  All these things he accomplished while living away from his family and familiar surroundings.

Simon Makinta and his family with The Wilson Foundation team in Vaalwater, South Africa

The one constant throughout his journey has been the support of  The Wilson Foundation.  Having the local ‘on the ground’ support of our representatives Marion and Angus Frew has enabled the Foundation to manage its grant programs efficiently and where necessary, provide additional assistance and help.  This certainly made the difference with Simon, as Marion was there to guide and encourage him along the way.

Now Simon will receive his license and will be actively looking for a position with an airline in South Africa (anyone with contacts please let us know!!).  As the first in his family to attend and graduate from college, and pursue a job that is almost unheard of in the township where he was raised, Simon is an example of how The Wilson Foundation ‘changes lives, one child at a time.”

For Simon Makinta, the sky’s the limit!

Why South Africa?

People often ask how and why The Wilson Foundation began focusing its work in South Africa.  If you ask our founder, Trisha Wilson, she will tell you that when she first arrived in South Africa, it felt like home:  the climate, the terrain, the people- all reminded her of Texas.  The first time I went there, I understood what she meant.  This is truly a special part of the world: a country rich in natural resources and beautiful, friendly people with a wonderful spirit.  It is also a country that has suffered from a poor education system, staggering unemployment, a critical shortage of trained medical personnel, and thousands of children who have been left orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The community of Vaalwater, South Africa has a population of about 35,000, including the sprawling Leseding Township, and an additional farm population of about 10,000.  Commerce in this region is mostly limited to agriculture and eco-tourism, with many game reserves located in the area.  There are not many other ways for people to make a living, hence the high unemployment rate.

A child in Leseding Township, South Africa

Over the past several years we have found that  by focusing our efforts in one specific geographic region we are able to see and monitor the difference we are making.  Here in Vaalwater, we are the only US-based nonprofit that is funding programs on a year-round basis.  Because we have board members who live in the local community, we are able to monitor the effectiveness of our grant dollars and, where needed, make corrections or adjustments. 

Leseding Township

We have had the privilege of working side-by-side with several community-based organizations from their very beginning.  These organizations are focused on working with stakeholders to find solutions to community needs.  The result has been stronger buy-in by the community, and their success is evidenced by the tremendous growth in their programs. 

A reminder of the toll of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa

So again the question:  why South Africa?  Maybe it’s because it feels alot like home.  But it’s also  because it is a country that desperately needs us.  Vaalwater is ‘off the grid’ to much of the world.  Rural areas like that  just aren’t known to most international aid organizations.  So working here, we know without a doubt that we are making a difference, and that our sustained support is ‘changing lives, one child at a time.”
In my next posts I will share a bit about our most recent trip to South Africa and all we experienced during our time there.

Check out The Wilson Foundation’s Hope Bracelet – seen in Pink Memo, Daily Candy and InStyle.com!

The Wilson Foundation

Help us change lives, one child at a time.

Getting on the plane to fly to South Africa, I had no idea what to expect. I had been briefed on a general idea of what the trip might involve; however, I was not prepared for the experience that I would have. Getting to spend a week with the kids of Timothy House was truly an unbelievable opportunity.

Every morning when we showed up at the field, I could see each guy and girl’s face light up as they ran over to give us a hug –they all knew us by name. The days were spent playing games, singing in line and when it came down to the drills, the girls would give everything they had. Even if they couldn’t quite understand what they were supposed to be doing, they would all respond “Yes Coach” and try their hardest. Their effort was inspiring, especially considering how exhausted they must have gotten. One thing that made an impression on me was that neither the language barrier nor the fact that lacrosse was a new sport for most of them hindered their desire to give us their full attention and utmost effort. As a result, it wasn’t surprising how quickly they picked up the sport. It took me over a year to be as good as most of those kids became in one week. Getting to spend time sharing the sport of lacrosse and getting to know each personality was something I would not trade for anything.

There are several experiences that stand out in my mind – one was when we started out two of the mornings playing a game of ‘Freeze Tag.’ It was obvious that the kids were tired. They had walked a long way and it was early and cold; however, as soon as we started playing, each girl was sprinting her heart out to either ‘tag’ or escape the person who was ‘It.’  Not only where they working so hard for themselves, but they would risk being ‘frozen’ to ‘un-freeze’ all of their friends. If you had been tagged, you could be sure that within seconds someone would be crawling through your legs to unfreeze you. It was amazing to see that selflessness in a game so simple as Tag. I also loved how the person who was ‘It’ would always say “Touch” when they tagged you, as if you could not feel it!  This simple game expressed alot about how friendly, loving and cooperative the kids were.  They would do anything for us and they just wanted us to love them in return. 

 When the week was over, we had the chance to go from teachers to students when we presented our homework assigned the Sunday before: learning and performing the Diski Dance. Although it was embarrassing how much worse we were in comparison, when it came down to American girls vs. American guys, the girls took home the prize. It was great to see how excited the Vaalwater girls got when we won!

Bailey Ewing

I had heard a lot about South Africa from my mom’s work with The Wilson Foundation and her trips there.  My teammates and I had been briefed on the community where we would be working and the challenges of the children and families who lived there.  We knew that many of the younger children didn’t speak English. Event though I was excited about participating in the lacrosse camp, I  really wasn’t sure what to expect. 

The first day, we went to the Waterberg Welfare Society to meet the kids who would be participating in the camp.  It was the 4th of July and the kids surprised us by painting their faces red, white and blue and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” which they had learned just for us!  We  then had our first lesson of the “Diski Dance”, the official World Cup dance.  That really broke the ice for the kids and for us, and we all looked forward to the week of camp ahead. 

The thing that impressed me most about the kids was their enthusiasm for everything we did.  Though they had walked a long way to get to the field every day, they were full of energy and loved doing exercises and drills, even running laps.  I especially loved working with the goalies and teaching them to catch, block and clear.  (The first lesson they learned -the hard way – was to never turn your back to the ball!!) 

Working with the goalies!


All these kids knew how to make the most of what they had, and it showed everyday on the field. They shared cleats with each other and would switch off on who got to wear them each day. They cheered for each other in drills and when taking shots. They always had smiles on their faces and were eager to learn the complicated game of lacrosse. They seemed happy no matter what they were doing, whether it was playing lacrosse, doing the Diski dance, or just braiding our hair. 

Performing the Diski Dance!


One of the experiences that touched me the most was going with Coach Xan and his Xtreme soccer team to help serve at the soup kitchen in the local township.  Most of these boys come from difficult situations themselves, yet they had stayed up late the night before making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to serve to those kids who were less fortunate than they were.  At the soup kitchen, which was really just tables set up under an old circus tent, the kids lined up politely and waited for their food.  Some carried younger siblings wrapped in shawls on their backs.  After going through the line once, they lined back up for more until all the sandwiches were gone.  I was amazed that these boys who themselves are receiving support, were also giving back to others who were more needy.  That was a really great experience. 

Every day after camp was over, the kids would surround the coaches and give endless hugs and ask to have their pictures taken with us. They reveled in the instant satisfaction of taking a picture and being able to see that moment frozen in time two seconds later. Something as simple as seeing a picture of themselves was a huge deal to them, though it’s something that many of us take for granted. In five short days, those children showed me how to enjoy everything thrown at you in life and to embrace it with joy and enthusiasm.  It’s something I hope I will always remember. 

My new friend Phinius - a great lacrosse player!


-Rachel Mannes

With all the excitement surrounding Friday’s activities, we all got to the fields early to get things started.  After our now-standard circle of prayer, lap around the field and warmup exercises, the kids were ready to begin.  On the girls’ side, Coach Sue and Coach Katie had kept the girls in their same groups from the day before, and they began a series of short, 6 minute games against the American players.  Joe finally got a chance to put on his official referee uniform and called penalties and fouls during the game.  The kids all played hard, especially against their American coaches, showing off all the great skills they had learned during the week.   

The girls play hard against Coach Sue!

Challenging Coach Katie

 Joe the referee makes sure everyone follows the rules!  

On the boys’ side of the field, the younger players took the field first, showing off their improved stick skills.  Then the older boys took over for a full-field game.  It was great to see them pass and shoot so well!  

After the games, Zach called over everyone to the Gig Rig, which was parked next to the fields.  It was time for the Diski Dance contest!  He divided the kids up with boys on one side and girls on the other, and the South African and American kids performed the Diski Dance, the official ‘Waka Waka’ dance set to Shakira’s song, which was the anthem of the 2010 World Cup.   

Zach gets everyone lined up to perform the Diski Dance

Despite their late-night practices, the Americans still needed help from the South African kids to get all the steps right, but everyone had alot of fun! 

The girls demonstrate their version of the Diski Dance!

The boys show off their best 'Waka Waka' movesThe girls take their turn doing the Diski Dance

After the dance contest, the group walked over to Farmers Hall down the road, for a special celebration that included a braai with pap (traditional South African foods), oranges and sodas.  Then, there were more dances on stage, and thank-yous  and gifts to all the American volunteers.  A special thanks was given to “Mama Barb” Cox, who helped establish the South African Lacrosse Project with her sons Kip and Harrison.  Zach presented her with a special beaded vuvuzela.  After many thank yous and gifts all around,  we then presented the kids with their certificates, signed by all the American coaches and volunteers.  After a final closing by Zach, the camp was officially concluded and the group stayed around for photos and final hugs.  

Zach presents "Mama Barb" with a special vuvuzela!"Mama Tori" with the Xtreme team boys, showing off their certificates.

It’s hard to believe the week is over, and it is also hard to adequately put into words how special this experience has been for all of us.  I know the WWS kids had a great time, and I also know that all the American volunteers have all experienced an incredible level of hospitality, camaraderie, teamwork and affection by all we met.  Like many experiences in life, this was one in which the teachers surely felt they were the ones who learned the most.   

"Mama Tori" with members of the Xtreme team, who proudly show off their certificates!

I know that I have cherished the opportunity to share my love of South Africa and its people with my husband and daughter.  I know the trip exceeded their expectations in every way, and it is something we will always remember.  I feel sure the others in our group would agree.

I also must admit that I loved being called “Mama Tori’ by 140 kids who were always quick with a smile and a hug!
On behalf of The Wilson Foundation and in particular Joe, Rachel, Haydyn, Bailey, Sarah and Tom, I want to express my deepest thanks to Barb Cox and Kip and Harrison Hart of the South African Lacrosse Project, for the opportunity to work with them on the 2010 camp.  And to our friends in South Africa, especially the incredible team at WWS – Mary, Zach, Hendrick, Phinius, Joy, July, Steve, and so many more- we send our heartfelt appreciation for your warm hospitality and incredible organization.  Your work and dedication are truly an inspiration.
Finally, a big thanks to Trisha Wilson and the gang at Wilson Associates, and also to the donors who have helped make our participation possible.  It has been an unforgettable experience!
Tori Mannes
Executive Director
The Wilson Foundation
July 2010

Day 4

The morning started early today for several of us. Sue, Katie and Tom left at 6 am to go on an early morning game drive at Welgevonden with Marion and Angus Frew, who manage Trisha Wilson’s property here and who serve on The Wilson Foundation’s board. Joe and I left shortly after that to go get the punctured tire patched and repaired.

The younger coaches got camp started this morning, beginning with the giant circle of kids on the field and Phinius leading the group in prayer. I am always impressed at seeing the leadership displayed by the young men of the WWS.  They are wonderful role models to their peers as well as to the younger kids in the youth program.

The group started off with a warmup lap around the field, and then Rachel, Bailey, Haydyn and Sarah did warm-up exercises and stretches with the girls, while Harrison, Cody and Max led warmups for the boys.  By the time the older coaches arrived, the group was starting on th e day’s skill drills and scrimmages.  The kids are really progressing in their games and we are all especially impressed with several of the boys and girls who seem to have just naturally picked up the game.

Coach Katie gives tips to the girls

The boys scrimmage all morning, and we cheer on Phinius as he takes on Cody, as well as the other boys who are challenging the Americans. Tom has really gotten a command of the Sotho language and yells commands and tips in Sotho. I have no idea what he is saying, but somehow, the boys do!

The boys scrimmage looks better each day!

Watching Sue in action is a real treat- she is always full of energy and constantly encourages, corrects, and cheers on the girls. The girls rotate in with short 7 v 7 scrimmages, and Sue calls for the next groups to take the field one after another so that all the girls have a chance to play. Bailey, Sarah, Haydyn and Katie take charge of different teams and Rachel works with the goalies. After each goal, the girls cheer each other, and each scrimmage concludes with the teams raising their sticks in unison. 

The girls celebrate a goal


The day ends in typical fashion, with words of praise and encouragement from the coaches and a prayer of thanksgiving from Zach for a wonderful day. Zach reminds the kids that tomorrow is Tournament Day, with a big celebration on the Waterberg Welfare Society’s gig rig, a Diski Dance contest, and finally, a braai (African cookout) at the Farmers Hall down the road. We all leave feeling tired but exhilarated after another great day.

Back at the cottages after camp, Zach, July and Mary from the Waterberg Welfare Society provide a version of the HIV/AIDS education program that they regularly provide at the area high schools. The presentation includes several activities designed to point out the risk behaviors involved with HIV/AIDS and to illustrate how the HIV virus can spread among a group of people. For our American kids, it was a frank and important education about a disease that has had such an impact on people everywhere, but especially on the community where we are working. Dr. Peter Farrant, chief medical director of the Waterberg Welfare Society, concluded the meeting by providing additional information and answering questions.

Zach, July and Mary from the WWS give a version of the HIV/AIDS education and prevention program they provide in area schools

It’s hard to believe our week of lacrosse camp is coming to an end.  We are all going to be sad to say goodbye to the kids but we are also excited about Friday’s games and the ‘Diski Dance’ contest.  The American kids stay up late on Thursday night trying to perfect their best Diski Dance moves so they can keep pace (or at least try!) with the South Africans.

Day 3:

Wednesday, July  7

We were up early today, getting things ready for camp. Joe and Rachel began training Tepiso and Helen at the position of goalie.  Both did very well.

Rachel helps Tepiso in the net

Sue started the girls on some great drills, and the morning concluded with some short 7v7 scrimmages. Over on the boys’ side, I took photos as Tom and Mike drilled the boys on reverse and lateral moves.

The boys practice a faceoff

The sun was very hot today, and as I walked back to the bleachers I saw a boy sitting there with his head in his hands. He had a headache and was slightly dehydrated, so we gave him a ‘headache tablet’ (aka ibuprofen) and lots of water. At that point the van arrived with lunch for the kids, and I suggested we serve it in the shaded courtyard of the school.  Lunch today was hot dogs, oranges and juice.  I walked through the courtyard refilling cups of juice until there was no more.  The van then came back with more pb&j sandwiches which we also served to the kids. Needless to say, there was not one crumb left!  Each player was given a big bottle of water and I spent much of the afternoon reminding the kids to go fill up their water bottles and stay hydrated. The South African sun is amazingly strong, even in winter. We all have been getting sunburned despite using sunscreen, and we have found the temperature varies greatly during the day- hot when the sun is beating down, and cold enough for a jacket when the sun goes behind a cloud. In the afternoon, Rachel and Joe trained two new goalies, Bianca and Lulu. The other girls worked on draws and penalty shots, and Joe then referreed a few short full-field games. After camp ended for the day and all the equipment was put away, The Xtreme Soccer team boys played a scrimmage soccer game with our U.S. players.

Playing soccer with the Xtreme Team

We decided that a US vs South Africa contest would be unfair, as the Xtreme team boys are so good (they play in the 4th best league in South Africa). Luckily, they were gracious enough to split themselves into two teams with the Americans sprinkled in among them. Max scored early on, and the other team scored soon after with a ball that bounced in off the post. The Dallas girls, all former soccer players themselves, loved playing with the Xtreme boys and even commented, “you know, it was nice of them to pass the ball to us and keep us in the game, cause they certainly could have done just as well without us!” After the game, we walked back to the only vehicle we had – a 2-seater bakkie (like a small pickup truck) that we had borrowed- and found that the left front tire was flat! I instantly knew it must have been a result of my having veered slightly off the road more than once in an effort to get as far away as possible from the oncoming cars!  Remember that it’s tough for Americans to drive in South Africa- the cars all drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheels on the cars are all on the right side of the vehicle!  Luckily I never had to drive too far!

After taking the punctured tire to the nearby service station to pump it up, Mike (clearly the handy one in the group) showed us how to stop the puncture from leaking by inserting the screw from Rachel’s lacrosse stick into the small puncture in the tire. Hopefully that will keep the tire stable till we can get it patched tomorrow.