What an exhausting yet incredible few weeks this has been for Philani!
It is actually still somewhat surreal how, in such a very short space of time, his life has changed almost overnight.
Since our last update to you, we received some very generous support that enabled us to get Philani on a plane to the US!
And it all took just 6 days!
Philani’s visa interview was scheduled and expedited. His visa arrived 4 days later. Flights were booked the following day. His Covid test was done on the morning of his departure and on the evening of day 6 we said our farewells at King Shaka Airport in Durban and our young beneficiary was on a plane to Atlanta via Doha!
This was less than two weeks ago.
Since then Philani has arrived safely at Life University, thanks to fellow Maritzburg College Old Boy, Sean McGladdery who picked Philani up at the airport, drove him through to the university and took the time and effort to make sure he settled in and had everything he needed!
Philani has now moved into his campus residence, he has met his new roommate and has begun exploring and orientating himself as to where everything is on campus.
The dining hall and wide offering of food is undoubtedly a firm favourite for Philani – if the regular Whatsapp photos are anything to go by!
Philani underwent his medical assessments last week and has already made his Life University rugby debut.
A week ago Philani came off the bench 20 minutes into the game and immediately made his presence felt.
In a bit of a scrappy season warm-up, his service from the set pieces and breakdowns was quick and reliable, his defence solid and his support play and reading of the game good enough to put him in a position to score his very first try for the Life U Running Eagles just before the stroke of half time.
Life U emerged victorious, 22-0.
The last two weeks have undoubtedly been quite challenging for Philani as far as acclimatising to a completely new environment goes.
Everything is new and strange and his Spanish roommate’s conversational English has, according to Philani, “taken some getting used to” when it comes to understanding what is being said!
But, as team sports so often can, it took just 80 minutes on Saturday for rugby to magically forge friendships for Philani and many of his teammates.
There was a distinctly different tone to Philani’s voice during our Sunday evening call. One of excitement and optimism. It appears he has found his “tribe”.
Another highlight for Philani last week, and one that has probably made the biggest impression on him, was receiving his new laptop – very generously donated by a College Old Boy and his work colleague in the US.
Philani reached out to thank these two generous friends and was offered the advice to “Pay it Forward” one day if he is ever in a position to make a difference in someone else’s life!
This gesture has touched Philani deeply – he has referred to it on a couple of occasions in the past week already. It’s an important philosophy to learn early on in life and if practised often will definitely help create a more connected and supportive world for all of us.
Philani will be completing his academic registration this week and his orientation takes place at the end of September. We will be supporting him with this process as well as arranging his mandatory health insurance cover.
Here at “Team Philani” we are so incredibly grateful for all the support, encouragement and advice that we have received.
The Simamane family (pictured below at the recent farewell we hosted for Philani) have asked us to convey their gratitude and thanks to each and every donor, supporter and volunteer who has played a part in making this dream of Philani’s, a reality. Thank You!
Please remember that you can still continue to “Pay it Forward” and help Philani by making a contribution to his future tuition and university costs.
Donations can be made via EFT (email us for banking details) or via PayFast – an online payment platform where the Sikhona Foundation has been vetted and approved.
Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or advice and thank you again for being a part of Philani’s amazing adventure.
Take care and stay safe.