Turning Strangers into Friends - Mike's Travelogue

Personal travelogue about my trip to South Africa and Lesotho with Lesotho

Mike Spear

I’m never happier than when I’m traveling. There’s something about the promise of a great adventure, new discoveries, and opportunities for growth that fills me with excitement and puts me at ease with the world. I think travel is so important that I’ve committed to traveling internationally at least once a year.

Given my career path and personal interests, I also try to make sure all my travels have a social impact component to them. When some friends introduced me to Mike , German, and Jürgen from the third half, I knew it would be the start of something great. We connected over the power and potential of using soccer as a tool for social good, and jumped at the opportunity to join them for a trip to South Africa and Lesotho . The week I spent with the t3h team was enlightening, and filled with great memories from areas of the world I wouldn’t ordinarily have seen.

Mike and his fellow travelers

I’d read the itinerary of course, but no amount of reading can quite prepare one for the view as we flew over the Maloti Mountains on our way to Lesotho. Driving through the streets of Maseru on our way to our first destination at Kick4Life, and jumping immediately into a street soccer friendly match with some of the locals made our group instantly feel at home, despite being literally a world away from my home in California.

                                                                                                         Pick up soccer game in Lesotho

As we immersed ourselves more in the local culture, it became increasingly clear how important the work of our hosts is to the people who live there. The Street Football World organizations we visited, Kick4Life and Grassroot Soccer, were impressive - deeply integrated into the local community, and part of the fabric of everyday life.  In addition to its education and life skills programs, Kick4Life owns and operates a highly-rated restaurant, hotel, and conference center, and Kick4Life FC - Maseru’s Premiere League football club. These are more than just a draw for locals and tourists. They directly fund the Kick4Life’s programs and provide a safe space for locals to enjoy.

It was clear the kids who at Kick4Life loved being there and they were learning a lot. We got to join in on a few group activities where the students eagerly recited their knowledge about preventative healthcare and spoke openly about how HIV and AIDS affected their families and their community.

Connecting with Locals

Back in Cape Town, we toured Robben Island, hiked the Lion’s Head, and toured Grassroot Soccer, with its state-of-the art technology center and coffee shop / performance space in the middle of Khayelitsha Township. Khayelitsha is rapidly evolving, but with nearly 50% unemployment, high frequency of violent crime, and the majority of its residents living in tightly-packed aluminum shacks, Grassroot Soccer provides a calm oasis where students can learn, play, and pursue hobbies in a safe environment with strong mentors.

Helicopter Views of South Africa

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much we packed into 10 short days of travel, or how much ground we covered. I left with a better understanding of the region’s history and culture, some new ideas to apply to my social impact work here in the United States, and lots of new friends. The one thing I’ll never forget though, is the feeling I had stepping onto the pitch for the first time at Kick4Life, and playing that friendly with the local kids and Kick4Life staff. No better way to turn strangers into friends than the beautiful game.

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