Founded by former gang leader Mario van Niekerk, this football-based project in the informal settlement of Cape Flats in Cape Town aims to keep young people away from gangs and crime and plugged into positive influences and aspirations.
Mario van Niekerk, a person all too familiar with the challenges that face the youth of the gang-ridden Cape Flats, lives in the Heideveld community and understands better than most the temptations of crime and gangsterism and the false promise they hold out to unprotected and unhappy young people.
Under the leadership of Mario van Niekerk, GCU’s mission is to empower the young people of Heideveld with integrity, perseverance, creativity and a strong work ethic in order to achieve their full potential in life. GCU believes that if they can play together they can live together and respect and appreciate each other.
Mario has become a positive role model for young people over the years. His personal story has made him determined to save as many children as possible from a similar fate. It is not uncommon for Great Commission United (GCU) to intervene in gang fights and vandalism caused by unruly youngsters. GCU then recruits these youths and helps redirect their anger in a positive way.
GCU empowers young people to succeed and to realise their potential and become architects of their own lives. It supports them in completing their education.
As participants get older, they are given the chance to become coaches and referees, as well as leaders and role models in their own right, gaining new proficiencies and experience.
The training sessions cater for different age groups on different days at the Woodlands Primary School. Children are picked up from all over the community and are brought to the school to participate in extra tuition and other educational activities with a team of volunteers. After the participation of life skill activities, the children move to the soccer field to do soccer drills and exercises and play in matches.
The majority of youngsters involved in GCU activities are from Heideveld on the Cape Flats. A small percentage of the participants are from Mannenberg, Gugulethu and Langa. There are primary and high school attendees and also adults from the community that are involved. The project caters for age groups from five to 21 and occasionally older. There are usually around 300 participants attending on a weekly basis.