Madiba's Gym Transforms Lives

nelson mandilla boxing


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Soweto - Even from his hospital bed, Nelson Mandela continues to inspire disadvantaged youths.

The Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC) in Orlando East, Soweto, where Madiba once practiced his boxing skills, still serves as a diversion, keeping many young men off the streets.

Built in 1948, the DOCC was initially intended as a youth center for the expanding Soweto population and would later become a second home for the esteemed statesman.

Over six decades later, the center continues to produce fighters, albeit of a different kind.

“I used to be a drunk, but since I started coming here, I have changed,” said Matthews Nengwekhulu, 23, a volunteer at the center, speaking to Timeslive.

The gym itself symbolizes the new South Africa that Mandela helped to create, despite some cracks in the walls and unfinished work here and there.

There isn't enough equipment to meet everyone's needs adequately.

Some features from the original apartheid-era structure remain, but the improvements made to the center have significantly enhanced the lives of many community members.

Notes beside every mirror in the room, such as “No eating at the gym, please!” provide a sense of the place's importance to its patrons.

Recent renovations include new lights and training equipment, as well as newly installed showers.

“We didn’t have sufficient training equipment before,” said Retselisitsoe Ratsoene, 29, a member for over five years.

The center caters to more than just boxers.

“We offer various activities here, such as boxing, soccer, and aerobics, to keep kids off the streets and engaged in something positive,” said Tumelo Mabitle, 20, a former boxer now volunteering at the gym.

He takes pride in the positive impact it has had on his community.

Owned by the Soweto YMCA, the gym's young members may not all know its history, but the influence of great men is evident.

Despite facing poverty and hardship, members are willing to pay the R100 monthly membership fee to improve their lives.

“The center has significantly changed the community. It keeps kids away from drugs and crime,” said Mabitle.

Source: news

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