In the midst of a time that is dark and daunting in South Africa, shimmers of sunshine break through on a daily basis at LIV Village – a home for orphan and vulnerable children in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. To rescue, restore, raise up and release next generation leaders into the community is the heartbeat of this village. Currently LIV is home to 154 foster children and trusting for an influx of children so that they can serve the community at capacity. And this is just the beginning. Tich and Joan Smith, founders and vision carriers of LIV, have a dream of establishing many more villages across South Africa.
LIV has many stories to tell; one of which is the beautiful (ongoing) journey of Sihle *, a once bewildered boy who turned into a running-hero and now acts as an incredible mentor and leader to his younger siblings and an inspiration to everyone he encounters. Coming onto the village in 2012, Sihle was on the road to destruction. After numerous incidents, social workers got involved and Sihle was placed in the foster care of a LIV mother. Early in 2013, Chester Koyana (now General Manager of LIV Village) joined LIV as the Manager of the Sports Department. “I immediately saw that Sihle has a natural ability to run long distances.” At that stage Sihle was still very troubled and caused havoc by vandalizing property and stealing. Chester and a few other men who are prominent father figures in the lives of the children of LIV, started to walk a road with Sihle and slowly but surely changes in behaviour started occurring. Chester specifically remember one conversation where he asked Sihle: “Is there anything you can compare to the rush you experience when you steal?” Sihle’s answer was to win races. From that moment on the LIV team of mentors encouraged Sihle to channel all of his energy into running, which he did. “His dedication and eagerness to learn from one of LIV’s sports coaches, landed him a place in the KZN cross country team and although our boy didn’t win at the nationals, we are so proud for the perseverance that he has shown throughout this journey.” Because of the environment he is in, he has become a village mentor overnight. “One of the things we have been seeing is how he is now mentoring the younger runners,” says Chester.
By using sport as a vessel, LIV had such a platform to speak into this boy’s heart and to change the course of his life drastically.