- Khati Mabuya started the Soweto weightlifting club in 2019.
- He wanted the children to have a safe place to train and do their homework after school.
- He has plans to open more weightlifting clubs to make the sport accessible and affordable.
Lifting Dreams Soweto is raising the bar to offer sport and education for the children in the area.
Soweto-bred weightlifting champion, Khati Mabuya, and his brother, Katleho, started the weightlifting club back in 2019.
Together, they wanted to create a positive recreational activity, which would keep children off the street and away from bad influences.
They aim to teach children value of discipline and hard work. Mabuya said:
"A place where they can come after school to do their homework and also have fun while training with their peers."
Mabuya met sports manager, Hein Badenhorst, at a weightlifting competition.
Soon after, they expanded the club's vision, formalised the initiative, and it gave birth to Lifting Dreams Soweto.
British weightlifting Olympian, Sonny Webster, even came on board and helped to raise funds for the club, allowing Mabuya to get the equipment he needed.
The gym trains 40 children, aged between 9 and 17, but these sessions are currently limited to every other day because of coronavirus protocols.
Lifting Dreams Soweto recently launched an academic programme, which assists youths in Soweto to catch up on the school work they missed during the lockdown.
"Unfortunately, when lockdown hit, there was a bit of a break in the [weightlifting] programme. And then we came back…we started seeing big issues, where kids were behind in their school work," Badenhorst told News24.
"That is when we started the academic support [programme]. We had volunteers and the coaches come in on Saturdays to assist the children in getting back on track with their school work."
Over the next three years, the Lifting Dreams team hopes to get more schools in Soweto on board to facilitate the after-school academic programme.
They also hope to further the sporting programme at these schools and to open more weightlifting gyms.
Zandile Zungu, a Grade 7 pupil and weightlifter, told News24 that, since joining the club in 2019, she has been able to travel and has gained self-confidence.
"I started weightlifting in 2019. At first, it was hard because I didn't know anything about weightlifting, but now I can't wait to come to the gym after school. I have learned that you have to be brave and never tell yourself that you can't do something," she said.
The club's assistant coach, Lesego Mogotsi, told News24 he hopes the gym will breed future sporting heroes.
"One of my biggest highlights, as a coach here, is seeing the kids grow. It's an amazing thing to help shape their future," he said.
"The goal is to get a few kids from Soweto to the Olympics and have a lot more Sowetan Olympians. We want to leave a legacy," Mogotsi added.