Savannah Connacher

Lizo Gqoboka: I attended school under a tree

Bulls prop LIZO GQOBOKA on how the Gqoboka Foundation helps people and his most special moment.

Why did you start the Gqoboka Foundation?
I grew up in a rural town called Tabankulu [in the Eastern Cape] and attended school under a tree. The older kids had to walk kilometres just to get to school. That experience prompted me to start the Gqoboka Foundation to create opportunities for people through sport and education.

How do you help those in need?
We focus on giving people bursaries. We are involved in many sports like netball, soccer and rugby, and have just introduced ladies rugby and soccer. We host tournaments where we invite scouts from schools and unions, which helps people get scholarships and contracts. 

What does helping those people mean to you?
We are blessed to help others. I believe in empowering and guiding people, so the foundation is incredibly close to my heart. Being given an opportunity changed not only my life but the lives of my family. I was able to build my parents a house and buy them a car. I could also create a better life for my children. There are millions of South Africans who are so talented, but nobody is giving them the attention they deserve. I thought I'd take it upon myself to make a difference where I can, little by little. 

What special moment stands out for you?
My most special moment was when the Gqoboka Foundation gave two girls a bursary to study. One of them had been sitting at home for five years since matriculating as she wasn't able to study for financial reasons, while the other had dropped out of school, also for financial reasons. Neither of them ever played sport. One told me that she had actually given up and had no hope, which really broke my heart. To hear that we brought hope and helped bring her dreams back to life was incredible.

Were there any other moments like that?
We also helped a boy who is currently in the School of Excellence playing soccer. We took him across the country for trials and he finally got a scholarship. He's in a big city now and his mind is enlightened, unlike me at his age. I grew up thinking there were only five professions, I didn't know that you could become an architect or an engineer. I didn't even know there was a sport called golf.

What are your hopes for the Gqoboka Foundation?
I definitely hope to continue making a difference in people's lives. I hope to be able to give more bursaries and help people achieve their dreams. I'd like to see the foundation giving thousands of bursaries and opportunities. I'd also like us to get to a point where we can sustain ourselves and not have to depend solely on companies and donations for funding. Most importantly, I'd like to see the people who we've helped become successful.

Follow the Gqoboka Foundation on Instagram