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An Emerald in the Rough
Just a year ago, the land behind the Ikhusi Primary School was a dusty patch of dirt, strewn with glass and trash.
Today that same field glows emerald under the hot South African sun, thanks to the work of the Franklin & Marshall College Men’s Soccer team, its coach, Dan Wagner, the family of the late Chris Campbell and Ryan McGonigle ’08.
The turf soccer field will be dedicated on Jan. 23.
The Campbell family and others will travel to Khayelitsha Township for the ribbon cutting. They’ll join McGonigle, who has been in Khayelitsha since September to oversee construction of the field.
This video, created by McGonigle, shows the progress of the project from its dedication to the present.
McGonigle said the Chris Campbell Memorial Field is about remembering his friend and teammate, who died on Aug. 15, 2007, and it’s a way to reach out to the people of Khayelitsha. After Campbell died, Wagner and his team decided to build the field as a way to honor Campbell’s memory. Campbell would have graduated with the class of 2008.
“I felt like it was very important for me to see it through,” McGonigle said. “Chris had a tremendous impact on my life, and I wanted to do my best to show my appreciation and love for him through my work at the field.”
Soccer Africa grew from Wagner’s initiative to help fight poverty and AIDS/HIV in Africa. Partnering with the Campbell family, Wagner and the team raised $380,000 to build the field and $30,000 to buy equipment. In March 2008 the men’s soccer team traveled to South Africa to deliver the equipment and to break ground on the field.
McGonigle returned in September to oversee the project and to work with Grassroots Soccer, which uses soccer as a means to reach children to talk about AIDS/HIV prevention.
“Working with Grassroots Soccer and helping with the development of the field, I would be able to help the field have a tremendous impact on the community,” he said.
“Soccer’s impact here is incredible. People will play anywhere, any time with anything that could potentially be used to get a game going,” he said.
Soccer opens the door. McGonigle said the field is an opportunity to draw people in and offer them health services and education about AIDS/HIV prevention.
The field is just the beginning. Students at the Ikhusi School will have their own soccer league. Another league, for township children, will also be established.
Grassroots Soccer will host an HIV Testing Soccer Tournament and establish a midnight soccer league for adults.
The plan all along, Wagner said, has been to build a health education center and clinic at the field to assist Grassroots Soccer and other groups in their mission to battle disease and poverty in the township. And he’d like to build greater links between Franklin & Marshall students and the townships, including study-abroad opportunities.
“I’m hoping to work with academic departments and the Ware Institute to connect the work we’re doing in Khayelitsha to F&M’s academic curriculum,” Wagner said.
Susan Dicklitch, director of the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, said the program would appeal to students interested in disciplines as diverse as public health and business.
“With the explosion of student interest in public health and the dire health needs of Khayelitsha, we are exploring the ways that F&M students can contribute to the well-being of residents in Khayelitsha,” Dicklitch said.