An initiative which began with the formation of Volkswagen Group South Africa’s (VWSA) judo team has grown into a community upliftment programme which has resulted in one employee heading to the World Deaflympics with two young hearing impaired contestants in July.
In 2006 Quality Assurance employee Sondisa Magajana, trained as a judo coach and started the VWSA judo team. Starting with just a few VWSA members, the team – comprising of both novice and experienced men and women – grew and began participating at provincial and national level.
The team now boasts 35 members, four of whom took top honours when they represented Eastern Province at the South African National Open Judo Championships in July, winning a gold medal for under-73kg senior men; a gold for U-66kg senior men; a silver for U-90kg senior men; and a bronze for U-81kg senior men.
Since starting the team at VWSA, Magajana realised that the dedication and passion of judo was something he wanted to impart to keen learners who were often side-lined in the sport.
In 2009 he started the Judo Institute for People with Special Needs – a move which earned him the Volunteer of the Year accolade at the SA Sports Awards last year for his involvement in the community.
It has been an initiative encouraged by VWSA. Magajana has been allowed the time off work to train students and accompany them to various training and championship events, often bringing home top honours.
“I’ve always wanted to break new ground. My plan was to include all disabilities, because in sport these are people that have been marginalised. I had a strong belief that I could make a difference in their lives,” Magajana said.
The schools which are benefitting from his training include Khanyisa School for the Blind (KwaDwesi), Reuben Birin School for the Deaf (Missionvale), Lonwabo School for the physically challenged (Missionvale), Cape Recife (Summerstrand), Northern Lights (Cotswold) and outside Nelson Mandela Bay, Efata School for Blind and Deaf (Mthatha).
After taking pupils to participate in the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled – presented by the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) – earlier this year, Magajana was asked to accompany South Africa’s deaf team as coach at the Deaflympics in Bulgaria, which ended in early August.
“I have put a lot of work into coaching physically and hearing impaired pupils, so being given this opportunity was a great honour,” he said upon returning.
Two of his hearing impaired pupils from Uitenhage, Priscilla Lawrence, 17, and Siviwe Nkwinti, also 17, accompanied Magajana to Sophia, Bulgaria. Both are number one in their respective weight categories on the provincial judo log for able-bodied contestants.
Priscilla returned with a sixth place in the women under-63kg, while Siviwe fought bravely despite being injured during training. He was knocked out of the competition after the first round.
“The pupils I train are as good as any able-bodied contestants. They take part in able-bodied competitions and excel,” said Magajana, who has already set his sights on taking a “team to be reckoned with” to the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey.
“During the Deaflympics we trained with French, Iranian and Argentinian contestants, so there was a great platform for skills transfer among the different teams.
Magajana will head to The Netherlands in December with the national deaf judo team for an international training camp ahead of 2014’s European Open Judo Championship.
Next on the cards for the VWSA team is a trip for National Championship U-73kg gold medallist Daludumo Makalima (of the Material Recovery division) to Abu Dhabi in November as part of the SA judo team.