On a grass and dirt soccer field in the Transkei region of South Africa, two teams of AIDS orphans take the pitch these days in Hickman High School colors.
That’s because Shoal Creek Community Church in Liberty teamed up with Hickman to outfit children at a day school in Bhukwini, South Africa.
In the village of 12,000, 236 children have been orphaned by AIDS, said Roy Moran, senior pastor of the church just east of Kansas City. Moran traveled to Africa in January to help these children. Along with medical supplies, he brought two teams’ worth of soccer uniforms.
In this region of South Africa, there are the very young and the very old; Moran said AIDS has created a situation in which the middle generation is all but wiped out. The young children struggle the most, often just wandering around until they reach age 8 when, if they can afford school uniforms and shoes, they go to school, he said.
“By taking these jerseys, we’re trying to create a league and provide something for these children to do,” Moran said. “Plus it gives them a bit of hope.”
Shoal Creek gathered 44 used Hickman soccer outfits, enough to completely clothe two teams of grade-schoolers plus extras for smaller children. They also brought shoes.
Rachel McDonald, a 1998 graduate of Hickman and music director at Shoal Creek, said the jerseys help keep the children in school. Because soccer is so popular in that region, having an outfitted team to play with helps counteract the challenges of getting to school.
“Tapping into that love of soccer and team and having a cool American jersey gives hope to those kids,” McDonald said.
“Having a uniform was like going to Disney World,” Moran said.
The quest to gather uniforms took off when McDonald called her mother, Hickman human anatomy and physiology teacher Jan Haffey, about getting her sister Megan’s old soccer jerseys. “She took the ball and ran with it,” McDonald said.
Haffey contacted Doug Mirts, the school’s athletics director, and soon they had two full sets of uniforms, one purple and one white.
Moran plans to return to South Africa Oct. 24 on behalf of his church. This time 28 people will accompany him, each with a suitcase full of medical supplies and Hickman jerseys. But they welcome other jerseys; Shoal Creek prefers to have at least 11 of the same kind. To donate, call Moran at 816-792-2992, ext. 24.