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Orphanage visit leaves me feeling humbled

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Dan Walker | 07:57 UK time, Tuesday, 22 June 2010

"Give it a few weeks and Africa will get you," was one of the first things colleague Rob Walker said to me after we met at Heathrow two weeks ago.

Last Saturday, his words struck a real chord as the BBC Sport bus visited the Zenzele orphanage in the township of Finetown, about 50km outside of Johannesburg. We were going to show a group of 60 kids their first football match on a TV rigged up to our bus.

I hold my hands up and admit that I went to South Africa with preconceived ideas about what I would see and the people I would meet.

Saturday was an absolute game-changer. It was the day that Africa got me. When we arrived at Zenzele, the children were all outside waiting for us. They sang us a song and some of the children read us a script they had written.

A lady called Winnie Mabaso was the founding mother of the orphanage. She used to feed more than 1,000 children a week out of her own kitchen before fundraisers in England bought the building that is now run by a remarkable lady called Miriam.

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All of the children in Zenzele are HIV positive and have lost their parents as a result of the virus. They are happy, vibrant and full of life. Much of that is down to Miriam and her team, who care for them, feed them three times a day and take them to the clinic when they show any symptoms of the virus.

The heartbreaker for me came when Miriam said she too was HIV positive and lost her mother to Aids. The emotion we all felt listening to her is hard to describe - it was a mixture of anger, frustration and guilt at the life we have back at home.

The overriding feeling is one of helplessness. When I held a little lad called William, who was the same age as my eldest daughter, I knew there was very little I could do.

The kids at Zenzele are the lucky ones. Statistics will tell you that those with Aids who live outside the gates are far more likely to die before they reach adulthood. That explains why - during the day - there were children jumping the walls to get in.

When we finally rigged the TV up, all the children gathered on a crop of rocks in the driveway. With no running water and limited electricity, this was a totally new experience.

Miriam showed them how to cheer if a goal went it - and they soon had the opportunity to practise when Australia took the lead. They were happy when Ghana equalised but the highlight was when they saw the advert for Doctor Who at half-time. "What was that?" said El Rico. "I want to see that show," added Thabiso.

Once the game had finished and our piece on the orphanage had been broadcast, we showed it to them on the screens. Imagine seeing yourself on screen on the first day you had ever seen a TV. Dancing broke out and the occasional yelp was followed by pointing at the faces they recognised. Miriam broke down when she was told how many people were watching them back in the United Kingdom.

The children watch the Ghana v Australia game
The children watch the Ghana v Australia game

We left just after dark with warm hugs all round and promises that we would never forget the people we had met and the friends we had made. I have been more surprised by South Africa than any other place I have ever visited.

We all know it is a complicated country with huge social problems but we have met some remarkable people with incredible stories to tell.

The World Cup is warming up nicely and the bus rolls on but what we saw at Zenzele puts football very much into perspective.

I'm finding it very hard to write this blog and feel that I lack the words to explain the situation. My intention was just to describe what we saw and the effect it had on us.

Maybe I should leave you with the words of a guy called Michael who I met in a Soweto church on Sunday. As a South African, his opinion carries far more weight than mine and strikes at the heart of it...

"I have lived in South Africa my whole life. Over the last 40 years, I can barely remember a day when I haven't felt frustrated by what I see around me. I love this country. At times, it makes me laugh and cry in equal measure but I am confident that, before I die, I will live to see a better South Africa because there are so many people desperate to make a difference and change it."

Miriam is one of those people.

If you would like to know more about the Zenzele orphanage, information can be found at

The best way to follow our journey on the BBC bus is via or the facebook page of Match of the Day.


  • Comment number 1.

    One of the best blogs I've ever read Dan..thankyou! and let me be first to assure you that you found exactly the right words - very moving, but at the same time so painfully real. Your feelings of 'helplessness' when thinking about little William comparing his life to the one you can give your daughter quite literally bought things home. The only comfort being Miriams' orphanage was at least bought by fundraisers back in the U.K....showing they're not forgotten.

    I think Michael who you met on Sunday in the church in Soweto chose the best term to sum up the problems in South Africa 'Frustration'. Yes, it's a beautiful country but such disparity between the rich and poor makes you nauseous - where £260m can be spent on soccer stadium to watch players on £100k+ salaries perform whilst orphans struggle with basic food/water or electricity needs - can only make you feel angry/confused/messed up really.

    You said how hard it was to write the piece and I'm sure the situation would leave the majority of us speechless, but witnessing it first hand somehow makes you duty bound as a human being to expose again well done! Don't you think the beeb should give it much more air time and not worry about offending anyone?

  • Comment number 2.

    Nice blog Dan, and i also feel you have got it spot on, i have been living in South Africa for 2 years now and still find it difficult to come to terms with all that goes on here, so much so that i feel a move back to blighty is on the cards in the very near future. Its not that i dont like the country it is just that the country itself isnt sure what it wants to do or which direction it should be taking and unforunately i cant take any chance with my kids. And I totally agree with the 1st post that it puts things in perspective with regards to the stadiums and players wages, so when an organisation like FIFA can come into a developing country and stage a tournament as big as the world cup and take about 90% of the profits which could have gone a long way to helping the likes of the orphange you visited, kinda sickening really.

    Good work as always Dan.

  • Comment number 3.

    Moving blog. Really well written, I could get a real sense of how you felt helpless, perhaps even guilty of your situation in contrast to theirs.

    Many raised fears of the World Cup being played in Africa.. when in reality the World Cup has brought many the chance to broadcast their needful situations around the World.

    This is why Africa needs the World Cup more than we do, and I'd love to see it hosted else wear in Africa again soon.

    I truly hope as a result of this World Cup, more is done around the World to bridge the gap in living standards.

  • Comment number 4.

    Mate excellent blog few of my mates are working out there with Lionsraw who i think you are going to see at some point, who are doing some good work. Going to places like South Africa make you change your opinions on fast cars, big houses and designer clothes hopefully a few footballers will see the embarrassment of their riches!

  • Comment number 5.


    I'm sure this experience will stick in the memory far longer than ANY World Cup game you attend or report on in South Africa this summer.

    Seeing first hand the hardships that these people face everyday must surely remind you that football is just a game, and for all the 'pain' that millions of people will feel if England get knocked out tomorrow, it doesn't come close to comparing to the tragic suffering that these unfortunate souls will face for the rest of their lives.

    We can only hope that the economic impact and exposure that the World Cup will give this country can help change the lives of people like this for better.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thankyou Dan. great blog - thankyou for sharing what you've experienced so honestly with us.
    I don't think you've lacked the words to describe how you feel - it comes across clearly to me how moved you were. I hope others are moved too, and get involved to make a difference.

    (Also your link to the website should be )

  • Comment number 7.

    Thank you for your time putting this blog together. Ok you get paid to bring SA to; but I have not seen David Bond etc... step out to the Zenzeles of this world.
    Man can make such a mess of man, and there is a reason why. But if you brought a pleasant memory to the children of Zenzele, and nothing else, you have still done more than most of the bloggers who enjoy your blog.
    Do you have a way of continuing your interest and support from the UK? Reading your blogg for sometime now I have every reason to believe that you are familiar with charitable giving and such like, so I' don't mean to suggest that maintaining a link with Zenzele would be something new, just curious that is all.

    On a lighter note: The football of this WC has been a disappointment (Argentina and Holland excepted). Last week the USA enjoyed basketball's NBA finals- Lakers won . My son has a football and goals and room to play, but all he wants to do is shoot hoop. Big disappointment.
    Enjoy the rest of your time in SA.

  • Comment number 8.

    So you went to an orphanage and the kids there were poor but happy. How profound - write a short article, say it puts everything in perspective, feel a bit wiser. The worst thing about this World Cup is the poverty tourism and the dozens of totally self-absorbed articles and pieces for BBC and ITV which say absoluely nothing interesting about it.

    'I'm finding it very hard to write this blog and feel that I lack the words to explain the situation. My intention was just to describe what we saw and the effect it had on us.' I can see the tears in you eyes Dan.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'd like the England squad to be taken there, and all the people in England who moan about their lives and the lack of opportunities here, count your blessings..

    I remember the England squad being greeting by African singers when they arrived and they struggled to raise a smile, it's sad really.

  • Comment number 10.

    #8 Fanon

    Have you ever heard about raising awareness? Poverty Tourism is essentially when people take advantage of visiting poorer areas for there own amusement which offers little benefit to people they proclaim to help. Dan’s blog is clearly not about this but about pointing out the struggle people still face in the world on a daily basis and hopeful directing some traffic to the orphanage website to make a donation.

    The “I can see the tears in you eyes Dan” Statement clearly shows a lack of empathy on your part, whenever you go to a place where children (or adults for that matter) are needless dying it will have an effect on you, unless you are severely emotionally stunted.

  • Comment number 11.

    Morning all. I am in the Joburg office getting ready to present the Nigeria v South Korea game on BBC3 later.

    Thanks for all the comments so far I just wanted to come back to Fanon (#8). I find your attitude hugely disappointing and I wanted to know what you think we should be doing out here in South Africa?

    I know we are one film crew and they are one orphanage out of millions but the lady who runs the charity in the UK has already had loads of requests to donate toys and gifts for the kids of Zenzele. However cynical you choose to be about it - that has got to be a good thing.

    When I spoke to Miriam at the end of our time there I asked her if she ever gets frustrated. She said the one thing that really gets her is when people outside of South Africa feel that there is no point to what they do or dismiss coverage of the charity and get on with their lives without batting an eyelid. Thanks for displaying that misguided opinion so eloquently.

    See you soon everybody. I hope you are enjoying the world cup.

  • Comment number 12.

    #8 Fanon

    The simple fact is, South Africa has a lot of problems, which a lot of people probably don't know about. It would be wrong for the world to go to the country and just ignore all that is wrong there. I think the BBC and ITV have done a great job in getting this message across. Whenever someone does an article like this, or a report on something similar, people are always sceptical about their reasons for doing it, but even if they aren't doing for the right reasons. If they are getting the point out to people that there is still serious problems, then that has to be good. Although, saying that, I am sure Dan has genuinely been affected by what he saw.

    Brilliant blog, Dan.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    What a blog Dan. Unbelievable. Like someone has said, take the England squad (and remember to get them to bring their Mount Everest ego's with them)

    Very moving. The back of my neck went funny as I read that. Very well put brother.

    The BBC didn't have to go there, so well done to them and keep raising awareness of people like that to us back home. To we are millionaries (even on our benefits)


  • Comment number 16.

    It's not often I cry when reading a blog entry at my desk at work. Beautiful piece.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is a brilliant piece of writing, Dan - although it's difficult to put into words exactly what you experienced there, I would say that you've done a remarkably good job of doing so. I was moved just reading about it.

    I'm really glad that organisations like the BBC are putting the effort in to make a difference to these children's lives. People in the developed world are so lucky to have what they have, yet they take it for granted. The children you visited will remember that day forever.

    Aside from this though, it's such a disappointment to have people like Fanon in this world. Such negativity should never be given an audience.

  • Comment number 18.

    14 has been removed because i spoke the truth - i will reiterate ny point using different language.

    Great blog Dan very well written & Ignore nr 8 because he is a person who most right thinking people will agree is talking nonsnese.

    Hope this doesn't get modded

  • Comment number 19.

    What a fantastic blog.

    I found it a fascinating insight into the disgraceful poverty and suffering some of our fellow human beings live in, but also into the enduring ambition, love of life and compassion shown by the very people subject to that affliction.

    I think all of us lucky few will agree (at least those of us blessed with so much as an ounce of compassion ourselves) that any effort to change their situation on our part is infinitely better than a lifetime of ignorance and apathy.

  • Comment number 20.

    I run the Winnie Mabaso Foundation here in the UK and we raise funds for the Zenzele Orphanage in Finetown. I would like to thank the World Cup bus for visiting the project last Saturday. I spoke with Miriam and the children after the crew had finished filming and I cannot begin to tell you how much it meant to them to have the team visit. Life is enormously tough for these kids. They have not only lost their parents but they live with HIV knowing that one day the virus could end their lives too. To see them laughing and enjoying the football was a marvellous sight. Thank you Dan and team for providing the children at Zenzele with a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.

  • Comment number 21.

    Dan I can tell from your comment #11 that you were a bit upset with Fanon's #8 slightly glib attitude, but hope you can tell from 99% of the other comments on here that all you guys' work on the bus is highly appreciated. Maybe Fanon's heart was in the right place and he/she was just voicing more of the frustration at the lack of progress at such a slow pace and he/she might be lifted by the news you gave that the charity in the UK and Miriam are already recieving a lot of help - no little thanks to your report either I imagine.(which shows it's worth doing)

    I hope you keep us up to date with things on Footie Focus next season?

  • Comment number 22.

    Dan did you give any of the kids fig rolls??

  • Comment number 23.

    This is a really great blog, the coverage that the football bus has been producing is so important. Football is one of the best global "languages" that so many people can relate to, the football bus provides real proof of the impact that this world cup can have in South Africa. Despite all the disparties in South Africa the people are full of joy and hope, let's just hope that one the world cup party is over in July that we don't all forget again.

  • Comment number 24.

    There are problems going on all around the world. But all those problems cease to exist when it comes to football. And it's nauseating seeing journalists indulging in token journalism with one eye on the heartbreaking little orphans and the other on the ultra rich footballers.

    The stench of injustice must be overwhelming so let's make a comment or two just for good measure and do a few hail marys. Because sooner or later someone's going to realise that while the world cup is in town, there's like all these godforesaken poor people everywhere and lots a crime too. The problem is where do you squeeze them in what with Anelka scandal still raging and John Terry getting all lippy.

    Yeah forget the emotional blackmail, dude. Let's get back to the football.

  • Comment number 25.

    Great work Dan, you and the lads are doing a cracking job over there.

    One things that gets me, is when people highlight the issue of the fact the money to host this world cup could have been used elsewhere. Fact remains, this wouldn't nearly be enough to help this country. For changes to the society of RSA to occur, the promotion of equality must be supported and a global festival such as the World Cup raises the awareness of what this country needs. The benefits of this tournament will live on for generations.

  • Comment number 26.

    Dan, I don't think there is any guilt to be attached to the fact that people in the developed countries have built a better society for themselves. It has been a long hard process that has taken hundreds of years to achieve, with a great many mistakes made along the way and with many things still to be done. But we should be proud of where we have got and always value what it has taken to get there and preserve these values in our society. Where guilt should be attached is if we fail to preserve these advances or to use what we have learned to try and help others to make the same sort of progress and build a decent caring society for themselves. At the same time, we should be open to the qualities that those societies also have, as many of these can be (re-)incorporated into our own to make it even better.

  • Comment number 27.

    PS: your evident compassion is a very good step in the right direction!

  • Comment number 28.

    Afternoon all. This France South Africa game is bubbling away nicely.

    I really appreciate your comments so far and I am glad that most of you can see where I am coming from.

    Sputnique (#24) I am not going to defend the way we are working because you have clearly made your mind up already. All I will say is that you are mistaken by what you believe to be our motivation for covering the stories we are doing.

    BLRBrazil (#26) Fully agree with you chief. I don't think guilt is the right response but I think it is part of the natural reaction to what you see.

    I knew I would get some grief for writing this but I can honestly say my purpose is not to say "look at the BBC aren't we brilliant". You can't cover modern day football without speaking to multi-millionaire footballers but there is no reason why we can't also show how the world cup is affecting all elements of society.

    Come on South Africa!

  • Comment number 29.

    //Dan, I don't think there is any guilt to be attached to the fact that people in the developed countries have built a better society for themselves//

    COMPLETELY untrue
    basically all these so called developed countries have robbed these poor countries of chances to develop to begin with

    history tells us where we get out diamonds from, where we get our oil from, where we get our food from
    and in turn the countries with all the riches are left to starve and die

    journalism has done nothing to the world except write about it
    although i appreciate the effort here dan i should say, we feel bad about what happens out there to our brothers but what are we doing about it?

    It all boils down to an individual and how much humanity left in each person's heart

  • Comment number 30.


    Thank you for a terrific Blog, I mirror the comments by others, and wanted to pass on my praise- you have captured the emotions many of us feel when confronted with abject poverty and overwhelming sorrow. The BBC have a responsibility to report this side of the WC and the comments made by a cynical minority clearly are not representative of decent 'beings' (I actually feel deeply ashamed and embaressed by their petty comments).

    In a WC that will be remembered for players with huge ego's and huge salaries, simply put any publicity to worthwhile causes should be applauded. The WC is as much about the socia-economic impact to the host nation(s) as it is the football.

    Thanks again- It's a rare moment when reading a blog at work provokes a tear

  • Comment number 31.'re right about the Fra/S.A. near, but yet so far heh!? What a party there would have been!

    The fact that you knew you would get some grief off people for writing this blog and were fully aware beforehand that many look upon 'celebs' or even reporters as saying 'look at us..aren't we worthy' just proves your heart was genuinely in the right place and you thought deeply about it. The purpose of the bus was to see all sections of South African society..both the good and bad, so doesn't have to be justified anyway. It's not as though your a mega pop/film star doing a 'concience' piece to camera then returning home to a 'mega' wealthy lifestyle in one of your many mansions.

    #29 mandy wrote: 'journalism has done nothing to the world except write about it'
    There is no harm in raising awareness, it's what others do about it when they are told and as Dan said the charity has already seen an increase in help and donations...the alternative to not being told is to live in ignorance and maintain the status quo.

  • Comment number 32.

    fully agree with raising awareness am all for it
    but what happens next?
    i am aware that showing kids with football when they have never watched tv is a good thing but is that the need of the hour?
    if you as in a person feel bad about the situation out there why not take an initiative
    and stop robbing their wealth
    taking advantage of their vulnerability?
    are we ready to do that? are these footballers ready to do it?
    NOTHING is gonna make a difference unless we ACT on it rather than sit and write/read about it

  • Comment number 33.

    i dont have any complaints about donations or awareness
    it is when someone says we have worked hard to get where we are right now
    Refer the history books. we have got where we are because they have been robbed of what they had. Africa has all the minerals it needs but where are they?

  • Comment number 34.

    As a South African over here in the UK I've been very interested in following your travels on the bus around South Africa and I've been very pleased with what you've done so far Dan. I've been very impressed with all the new stadiums and infrastructure put in place for the World Cup but it takes a story like yours above to put it all back into perspective and I'm sure a lot of good will come out of stories like these.
    Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.


    I'm sorry your really heartfelt efforts to highlight the absurdity of the contrast between the sulky overpaid footballers in the mainstream competition, and innocent children who have no such fortune, is maligned by a minority of bloggers. Shame on you guys. Dan, we need more blokes like you at the worldcup, to remind us of what's real.
    Can we likeminded folks affected and reminded by Dan's blog help the kids - evry bit helps and is there somewhere we can contribute?

  • Comment number 37.

    Dan, I applaud your efforts. As another contributor pointed out, building awareness and highlighting needs is the first step to being able to do something about the situation. The quality of our society should be measured by the way it caters to the needs of ALL of its citizens, not the wealth and achievements of the more successful portion.
    In that respect, Mandy (No.29), you have completely missed the point I was making, and focused only on some of the mistakes to which I alluded. Don't forget that the world world used to function on the basis of grabbing wealth wherever and however it could be obtained, but the countries that developed their social structures were the ones that got ahead. It is a relatively recent phenomenon to recognise that 'might doesn't make right' and try to run the world on a more equitable basis. As I also said, we have a long way to go, but you build on what you've got, starting with the human resources you have at your disposal.
    Remember that one of the great achievements of the developed world is that it has built up a huge knowledge base that it can now apply to helping the developing world to bridge the gap. And there are a huge number of well-intentioned people (spare me 'the way to hell is paved...' at this point please :o) working hard in trying to achieve this. But it requires the latter to help themselves too.

  • Comment number 38.

    that should've read "the whole world", sorry

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm a health professional - currently living in the UK... but I studied and worked in SA. When I read articles like this I am reminded of the heart and the spirit; the smiles and the good nature; in all of the people I worked with. Stories like this may not change anything in South Africa - but those children have been given a gift. And even little gifts like that are such an amazing treat. For people who scoff at such visits and such articles - perhaps you should try spending your afternoons holding AIDS orphans in hospitals so that they at least would know how it feels to be loved and cared for... it's not much. It's not a cure; it's not money and it's not social reform. But in some ways - it's so much more.

    Thank you for going to my country and for caring. The people say Ngiyabonga to people like you who make an effort.

    (and hopefully to me too when I go back!)

  • Comment number 40.

    //Don't forget that the world world used to function on the basis of grabbing wealth wherever and however it could be obtained, but the countries that developed their social structures were the ones that got ahead//
    Are we still Not doing the same?Honestly?

  • Comment number 41.

    No.21 - nice, uplifting support!
    No.19 - you've raised a very good point that we 'developed world' people should bear in mind before we moan about our lot (and God how we moan!). People in so many poor countries manage to sustain a positive, even joyful approach to life, with caring and compassion, even in the most awful circumstances. When I first arrived here in Brazil I thought, these people can teach us Brits a lot about human values. What they lack is social structure and cohesion - it tends to be each one for himself - which is something we can help them with, especially since there are many wonderful people here already trying to change this.

  • Comment number 42.

    Re 40, I agree with you Mandy that there is a danger of the world slipping backwards socially, if we swallow the propaganda that the fall of the Berlin wall means capitalism is right. Communism was a wrong-headed and failed attempt to counter the evils of capitalism. Neither is right, and we still need to continue pursuing the 'third way', imho.

  • Comment number 43.


    Great blog - I fully understand your sentiments and how you feel as I've just returned from SA after spending a week with the Lionsraw team ( working with HIV/AIDS orphans and street kids in Durban and the valley of a 1000 hills. The children are fantastic and remain happy and smiling in terrible circumstances. Until you experience it first hand it somehow doesn't seem real, but when you do - reality bites hard.

    The scale of the problem really hit home when I was out there .... 22500 people in South Africa will die of AIDS during the 31 days of the world cup ... so when we sit there looking at one of the magnificent stadia ... just think of a third of it being empty after 31 days - that helps calibrate the mind to the size of the problem.

    One can only hope that one of the outcomes of the world cup is a lasting legacy to the poor and disadvantaged and we see some real scoial change in what is a beautiful, perplexing and fascinating country. Political will, leadership, cultural change , education and support are what is needed now.

  • Comment number 44.

    Its just an overwhelming feeling when I see people in africa suffer. also all this awareness when we read about it gets drowned when we start doing our day to day activities,watch football,go to pubs, basically just worry about ourselves. And we really cant accent the fact that we exploit the world way too much and in turn say we have suffered to get here. Ironically we are the ones who never suffered the way the world did because of us.
    We have so many charity events here in the UK, for the old,for the blind,for the poor but the extent or the degree of suffering is NOT the same. I guess we all know a lost case when we know it?

  • Comment number 45.

    #43 eaglered

    i fully appreciate your work. the world needs more heroes like you

  • Comment number 46.

    lots of typos should be accept the fact and lost cause when we see it?

  • Comment number 47.

    The no. of comments you have received on this blog,indicate how vital a role you are playing by drawing attention to the real circumstances of life in SAfrica.
    I helped out at Thamsanqa Orphanage in Port Elizabeth for tha last two months of 2009. Your description of the emotions you felt are those we all feel when confronted with a situation beyond both our experience and our ability to remedy.
    In my case, I decided to cycle across Africa to draw attention to the situation and raise funds. I finished cycling the 7500 miles last month. You are in a position to do so much more. I hope you are able to continue to draw attention to the help that orphans need there, even when the World Cup is over and people's thirst for the latest news has moved them on.

  • Comment number 48.

    Alright, so I was a bit harsh on young Daniel (see comment 8). He obviously went to the Zenzele orphanage with the best of intentions. I'm sure he's nice guy, and wishes that HIV positive children weren't HIV positive, and that they all had TVs and could watch the World Cup etc. The kids probably had a nice day - I'm not disputing this. What I would like to comment on though is that articles like this, written by people with no particular expertise, are not really about South African poverty in itself ie an inquiry into what social, political and historical processes have combined to produce these lives, but are rather concerned with how the visiting journalists react to this situation. The blog is about Dan himself, and demonstrates little attempt to engage in any sort of considered analysis about this poverty. If as Dan states - South Africa is a complicated country - then why isn't this complexity acknowledged by producing a more complex article.

    If you want to listen to something more considered about the World Cup and its social impact on South Africa then try this:

    or even read the Royal African Society blog:

    I have worked in Kenya (let's be specific here and not just lump a whole continent together) and studied South African history and politics, so to read blogs like this and the vapid comments that have followed, really frustrates me.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am getting tired of the continuous sob stories from South Africa or Africa in general. Although I understand that you were touched by your environment, I do not understand that nobody ever talks intelligently about HIV and Aids.

    Most people will be surprised to hear that Luc Montagnier the 'father of HIV/Aids' and recipient of the Noble prize for his research on the subject stated on camera that people can get HIV several times in their lives and can become healthy. The reason we don't know about this is because there is not a lot of money being made in healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Check out the video here

    What touched your reporter is how generous people volunteer for things that is outside their immediate 2.4 family, it is not - this is normal - just not here in the rich western world. We are imposing our medical diagnostics on Africans (see Bangui definition of Aids - only for Africans mind you) to make money.

    The Aids virus has never been found in 25 years of research - surprised - I certainly was when I found out. Read the website

  • Comment number 50.

    Just wanted to say another well done to you Dan. Read this earlier at work and had to blink a lot to stop a few tears. Its truly 1 of the saddest things i've read, to think that in 2010 when in the UK we moan about the NHS not being up to scratch whereas in parts of South Africa they can only dream of anything even similar to that. I was aware that HIV & AIDs are huge problems in Africa but seeing a real life story like that is just heartbreaking.

    Winnie, Miriam and Lisa are all incredible people and deserve footballer's wages themselves. The time and effort they have given to improve these children's lives and hopes for the future is commendable (sp) and both an inspiration and a wake up call to everyone else.

    Fanon, I think Dan actually wrote this to increase awareness at least amongst his audience which he has successfully done.

    Now, in order to lighten the mood somewhat, here is a World Cup themed footballer sign off.

    Jong Tae-Se (Also nice to see how much his WC debut vs Brazil meant to him)

  • Comment number 51.

    Great read..
    As a 28 year old South African having lived there virtually my whole life (currently traveling/working in Scotland at the moment) I really was moved by both the blog and the video - really a stark reminder to what is all too common in South Africa! A beautiful country indeed, a land of much contrast. A place where there is still much to be done, yes, but despite the very sad facts, there is hope! Many many people on "the ground" are doing so much in the most rural of areas such as this! So yes, Dan and co., every bit does help and goes a looong way...
    My wife and I helped out in a local HIV/Abandoned Orphans home for years, and to them, those few individuals, we mattered a great deal. In the light of where SA is right now, having a few friendly, smiling and genuinely caring - white - faces will likewise go a long way in the minds and lives of those beautiful children.
    I firmly believe we are all "called" to different things in this life, some are more hands-on, whilst some will raise awareness. (What a platform you and your team have had here). We are all in a sense duty-bound to lend a hand, but it is in different ways that we do it. Prayer alone helps.
    Aside from that, I am finding this a thoroughly enjoyable WC. So many big teams on the brink of going home. Smaller teams staking a claim. Drama. Heroic come-backs. Red cards galore. You've got to love 'The Beautiful Game' very much!!!
    Cheers from a lovely warm Glasgow.
    (Thanks again for this snippet of home)

  • Comment number 52.

    Kudos to 43 and 47 for actually doing something about it. Well done EagleRed and Eric!

  • Comment number 53.

    I have been really moved to see the coverage that the orphanage has been given by the BBC and thrilled for all the children to be given such an incredible experience. I hope and pray that this will inspire all of us to give to such a worthy cause as we have so much. I know the couple who run the charity from the UK and admire their commitment in helping these children have a better quality of life. They work tirelessly to fund raise and support this cause and every penny that is donated goes directly to the many charities can say that? So think hard and dig deep as the World cup coverage has given us the chance to make a difference. Our local Beaver Scouts will be having a sponsored swim next week to fund raise and we hope to have permanent links with the orphanage so that we can continue to support them and be grateful for what we have.
    Thank you for your story moved me to tears. Keep up the good work x

  • Comment number 54.

    Evening everybody. Just in the car on the way back to join the BBC bus in Bela Bela.

    I was on BBC3 tonight doing the Nigeria v South Korea and it was a beauty.

    Good to see there is some sort of healthy discussion going on. I feel the need to explain a few things to the likes of Fanon (#48), Think4urself (#49) and Mandy (various).

    If you read the biography at the top of the blog it explains that I was asked to write about my experiences as Football Focus presenter. That is exactly what I am trying to do.

    I am not attempting to solve the problems that have existed in Africa for centuries, I am not pretending to be a world expert on HIV/Aids and I am not trying to write a treatise on South African politics or explore the psychology of human responsibility to those who are less fortunate.

    I met some kids who were HIV positive and cared for by a wonderful woman who lost her mum to Aids and is herself feeling the affects of the disease. I thought that if I wrote a blog about it then maybe just one person would read it and send something to the Zenzele orphans to make their lives a little easier or, at the very least, pray for them.

    May I encourage you to take a step down from your pulpits and show a degree of dignity and class.

    Thanks again to those of you who understand where I am coming from.

    See you soon.

  • Comment number 55.

    Dan, I religiously read your blogs last season and always thought they were superb throughout.

    This blog in particular was honest, and very well written. As you mention above if you can get only one person to contribute in some way then this blog is a success and a job well done!

    You are a legend mate, looking forward to the rest of the blogs for the remainder of this World Cup and next season.

    Just wanted to show a bit of appreciation for your efforts!

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Dan,

    Just wanted to send a wee vote of confidence, not that you need it.

    I thought the piece on the orphanage was compelling, informative, heart wrenching and thought provoking.

    I for one signed up to gift aid the next day. I agree that not every battle can be fought but firmly believe if we all help one good cause the world will be a far better place. Whether it be through a BBC blog, a world cup broadcast or a helping hand.

    A healthy bit of reality based journalism from the sports dep't at BBC is a good thing and will reach audiences during the world cup only achieved through the likes of children in need and comic relief so well done to you all.

    I would suggest guilt is an easy feeling to have when encountering any case of human misery and struggle...or you are not human yourself.

    To all the cynical minds and embittered voices on this blog, please put your energy and time into helping not hindering.....if you are taking the mention of guilt to mean something other than a feeling of helplessness on Dan's part, then let's not forget that the European empire builders (and the UK was the biggest) caused hundreds of years of depravation and angst in Africa through murder, slavery and oppression, we are the generation that SHOULD feel guilty for those actions, literally, and do our utmost to right some of those wrongs and help things improve going forward, with whatever tools we have at our disposal.

    You can only fight the battles you can identify and influence, every little bit helps, however helpless you may feel.

    Keep it up and lets hope the English can pull a win out of the bag tomorrow

  • Comment number 57.

    #48. Point taken. But as the writer explained this is just a blog about him going to the oprhanage....a human interest story...and a good one.

    If you want deep socio-economic/political discourse about South Africa then should probably buy a copy of the Economist or other type publication.

    You don't go to the local pub and then complain that they don't have the latest selection of trendy martinis do you? That's what you are doing.

  • Comment number 58.


    I just came across your blog. As an American I can admit we are seen as being very insular and removed from such horrible tragedies like the Aids pandemic in South Africa.

    This story makes the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast (I am from coastal Alabama) look like a minor issue. Thank you for showing us those beautiful zenzele children.

    This truly is what the World Cup is all about, and it's not all about football (soccer.)By the way, Good luck to England tomorrow!!

  • Comment number 59.

    Seems that France's soccer team attempted to PUNCH above its weight only to be humiliated & exposed! Platini's silence is deafening. Perhaps the Frogs will offer to replay their controversial match as Ireland's players also have bags of free time.

  • Comment number 60.

    Re #48

    I think #57 xpat73 makes a good point in that this is not a piece which you should need a degree (or any kind of formal study for that matter) in south african politics to understand - I think it's fairly safe to assume Dan doesn't have this level of depth knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong!) so he's unlikely to write the article as such.

    To me it's more a piece with which you can empathise on an emotional level - which almost all of us should be capable of.

  • Comment number 61.

    it's great that because of the world cup so many more people have become aware of the plight of many south africans. So thank you so much Dan for your contribution. As a south african 'whitie' living in joburg, i just want to salute the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people in this country who are devoting their lives to addressing the problem. This orphanage is one of thousands - really, it is. For ALL of us in SA, Aids is something we live with every day - in one way or another. To all the people out there - from the theatre companies devoting time to educating illiterate workers about hiv, to the health companies providing free testing all over the country, to the companies offering free antiretroviral treatment, to the companies supporting (financially) spouses and families of their hiv+ workers, to the church organisations and other hundreds of thousands of volunteers who go into the 'townships' weekly to clean the very ill patients stuck in bed, to lift them up and turn them over and tend to their bedsores and neglected children, to those who labour tirelessly (Miriam is one of at least 100 000 individuals) to look after the orphans in homes, to the many, many so-called 'privileged' couples who have adopted hiv+ orphans, most of us are involved in some way. But, if after a day of volunteering in the townships, we let our emotions rule us, the images of emaciated men and women in shacks, babies lying in towelling nappies unchanged for a day, flies buzzing around unwashed dishes and rotting food, we would be overwhelmed by the pain we see and would probably burn out and be of no more use to those who need it. Don’t get me wrong - we are thankful for the awareness created by these 'events' but it’s vital that visitors to our country do not come in with a ‘messiah’ attitude (read Angelina Jolie and others), which is something that can develop if there’s too much emotion and not enough of a reality check.

  • Comment number 62.

    # 48 I think # 57 has been far too kind to you in explaining it in a nice wee analogy.. You have worked in Kenya and studied the history and politics of the country therefore you will only read articles on the subject which meet your levels of expertise.. behave..

    Unfortunately there always seems to be a person willing to blog negatively on the most innocent or well meaning of entries to feed their own need for an argument..

    Dan.. good work.. your tv reports and blogs have done what ( I think) they are meant to with me.. they have shown me examples of a different culture which I probably wouldn't have got to see..

  • Comment number 63.

    #57 xpat73

    Good point well made.

    #48 Fanon

    Well done on your degree in Politics, I like many people have a degree in Politics, throughout my 3 years in the one of the worlds finest International politics department, I became highly frustrated with the superior attitude of those who studied my subject; even to the degree that non Inter-Pol students were belittled in the university Amnesty International chapter. #57 is correct, this is a human interest story and as a scholar of Politics I’m sure you know that in order to awaken the masses to the plight of African suffering (and for that matter across the world for such things as the current Uzbek crisis or the deplorable situation in Turkmenistan) is to raise awareness through stories like this (see my previous point).

    But well done on having a degree- that makes your point much more valid than the 99% which contradict you.

  • Comment number 64.

    HI Dan,
    Back again... but not as often as Mandy and others. Usually I read your entry on the blog and select others but not all the entries- after all one can only put up with so many statements about sausages, biscuits and such like that are a wonderful memory but currently unavailable. On this occassion I have read every entry. Too much time on hands- my 3yr daughter woke me up at 4 AM to tell us all she had peed on the floor; sound familiar? Since my wife is due to give birth to #3 in 5 weeks there was only ever going tobe one person getting up to clean it up.
    BY THE WAY if #3 is a girl we will call her Miriam; we decided this 9 months ago.

    Anyway all that just to say your bloggs are quite different from Piers Edwards, David Bond (not a fan of DB). Phil McNulty (good stuff)& co... I shall miss the Tees Mouth, mind you. Looking forward to your next blogg which, no doubt will reflect the 3 lions flight home in a few days. Still think that with another 7 - 10 years under your belt you should consider campaigning for Crawley MP.

  • Comment number 65.

    I appreciate your efforts Mate Its just a feeling of helplessness that you feel when you are there that I feel Everyday sitting in a comfortable chair. I have personally been trying to volunteer in Africa for while now. At the end of the day that is all about me having to pay £1000 to volunteer and my own ticket. Some of us want to do it but but simply couldn't afford to. It is indeed a vicious circle

  • Comment number 66.

    Mandy you sound like the type of person this country really does need. someone with huge compassion and a genuine desire to make a difference. try contacting a charity called starfish greathearts foundation. their email address should be If not, just google starfish greathearts. They are possibly the best charity in SA, doing the most work and making the most remarkable impression. they have a base in London have a great heart.

  • Comment number 67.

    Only just caught this blog Dan.

    I am a bit amazed at the criticism which has been directed. Why shouldn't we take the opportunity to learn about the host country? There are enough opportunities to watch all the footy (twice!) without an odd short film detracting from the sport. Also, re the 'cynical' angle, anything which helps to raise the awareness of these issues can only be a good thing (as the couple of people posting here genuinely involved have confirmed) and as it happens, this film was an informative, non-patronising and positive piece of work.

    Also, again as per the posts above some very specific good has been done in that people have been moved to donate (as I am trying to if the website would work!).

    The BBC would get their viewing figures for matches regardless of whether they make these types of films so I think accusing it of being an entirely cynical exercise is wide of the mark and I also think anyone who can accuse Dan of the same having read this blog has completely missed the tone (and not been following his blog which I have to say conveys more of his personality than any of the other BBC ones!).

    Keep up the good work Dan, I've watched and enjoyed as much footy as possible as well as having a far different view of SA than I did before.

  • Comment number 68.

    Afternoon all. Just watching Italy struggling against the Slovakians!

    Mandy thanks for coming back with a comment. I can tell from what you've written that you have a genuine concern and I think the best thing to do is follow the advice of lawgabhan (#66) who seems to know what he/she is talking about.

    I went to see another amazing lady called Georgina yesterday. She lives in Nelspruit with her kids about 500 yards away from the stadium and has spent the last few years earning a living by cooking and selling food to the workers. Now the stadium is finished, and FIFA don't allow independent sellers on their turf, she has no means of income and is worried about supporting her family. Despite that she still believes that the world cup will be good for South Africa though.

    You'll be able to see the film about Georgina during tonight's (Thursday)live game on BBC1 and BBC HD.

    Enjoy the rest of the Italy match.

    See you soon.

    Lauren Blanc

  • Comment number 69.

    This is just amazing! I'd been asleep a few days ago and woke up to see the last part of Globetrekker (shown on public television in the USA). It showed a young man showing the sights of Johannesburg, and then moving to an area called Fine Town. The story of Winnie and those children(this was filmed when she was still alive) stayed in my mind and today I looked her up because I wanted to help out.

    When I read that she had died, I was truly sad. And then I was concerned that maybe the foundation wasn't able to keep the orphanage going and I didn't want to send money half way around the world not knowing if it would be used appropriately or not. So I asked God to help me out and I typed in the orphanage name in the search engine and up came this blog. A sporting blog! So I knew that the foundation was still running and still needed money.

    And to seal the deal, 5 minutes later a friend gave me a chocolate (the ones that have messages inside the wrapper) and the message said "Do something for someone less fortunate today." I think that's called a Godwink. Dan, thanks so much for writing this. You actually changed my life and you're going to be changing the lives of Miriam and the children. Great, great work! God bless.

  • Comment number 70.

    Nicely done Dan, the fact that you took sometime to visit those kids in such an unfortunate scenario is marvelous to say the least. Your writing is deeply moving and to the point, Thanks to you!

  • Comment number 71.

    Just wanted to add ... I'm an Australian living in the US and reading about the things the BBC (and Dan's team)has covered in SA and wanted to say "well done" for showing the bigger picture.

    Dan, I think it's wonderful that the BBC allows you to do this. And I think people forget that covering poverty and children who may not live to adulthood is heartbreaking, and it lingers like a shadow, and a lot of people would run and hide from it. But you didn't and the ripple effect of what you're doing will be felt. How many of us go to sleep knowing we really did make a difference in the world? :)

  • Comment number 72.


    Favour please - now that England are playing in Bloemfontein, would you please visit the mass graves of the Boer women and children exterminated by the British circa 1900 in the concentration camps? Pleas egive us an insight?

  • Comment number 73.

    May I suggest that a serious recommendation is made to those inept very rich young men who kicked a ball about against Germany this afternoon that they pay their world cup fees to a charity to support youth football in Soweto and the other townships.

  • Comment number 74.

    Sadly I have just googled the salarys of Rooney and Lampard (90k -140k a week + advertising bonus worth 2 million) what a difference these guys could make to these children - does this excessive income reflect on the poor performance - there was no hunger there - yet we have troops who represent the state that are dying for far less per annum? What does this say about our values!

  • Comment number 75.

    #48 ThinkForYourself

    A truly ironic handle...the link to the AIDS website shows a lack of such a quality. AIDS deaths in South Africa hit a terrible high when a company purporting to sell a cure began spreading exactly the kind of utter rubbish in this website. Your response has prompted a rare blog entry from me, so well done, but I echo Dan's elegant response to show some dignity.

    Well done Dan for an excellent blog

  • Comment number 76.

    Sorry Dan, I am sure you are a jolly decent chap and do a good job for the BBC. However, this is just another example of the left-liberal hand-wringng self-serving tosh we have seen at this world cup, especially from the BBC.

    The BBC in SA for the WC seem to have taken it upon themselves to lecture to the rest of us as to how we should feel and look upon the 'Rainbow' nation with the BBC's dire social and political 'documentaries' from such 'political and social commentators as Alan Hanse and Alan Shearer!

    The BBC's coverage of SA and the WC should have been about football and nothing else. The WC will make a difference to a very small number of people and that is it. When the show leaves town the 'great people of SA' will be long forgotten.

    I am sure your blog and your report will make you feel good about yourself and will advance you career at the oh! so PC BBC. But for many viewers it has all been a complete turn off.

  • Comment number 77.

    Apologies for comment 74 in my haste logged into the wrong blogg!

  • Comment number 78.

    Even though I read the BBC website thoroughly every day, this is the first time I've registered and commented, simply because I feel you deserve even more people just to stick up for you and say, that was a great piece of writing and I honestly believe you aren't doing it for the unenviable reasons suggested by some people. I also thought #72 was a good comment and an insight into what he suggested would be very interesting. Also hope these knock-out stages start to light the tournament up. Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 79.

    Whatever happens on the pitch, it is irrelevant compared to issues like the ones Dan has raised in his blog. Football is not just about who wins (thankfully, being a Scotland fan). It is a language that can be understood by all, and can be a very powerful tool in raising awareness of poverty and disease as well as bringing hope and joy to those most affected by them.

    Charges of 'poverty tourism' leave me sickened and dispirited. I can only feel sorry for those blighted souls quick to pour scorn on efforts to alleviate terrible human suffering. My answer to them would be: what's your brilliant alternative? Are you so morally unimpeachable that your sour cynicism is somehow worth more than someone moved enough to highlight the efforts of those who work daily to try and bring a plausible existence to children afflicted by HIV? For shame.

  • Comment number 80.

    Hi Dan great piece of reporting. really pluked the old heart strings. However when all the bruhaa dies down are you going to still going to try and maintain a media pressence for this orphanage or is the story going to die under the next story and be forgotten forever. You have identified a social problem hope something good comes out of it. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch Tansfal.

  • Comment number 81.

    The number of reporters the BBC has sent to South Africa is simply RIDICULOUS. Dan Walker is a prime example of the 'Jolly' nature of the employment. A classic example was when he reported that he had been busy 'watching Fabio Capello playing golf' before stating that 'we sent so and so to investigate'. Now, rather than watching the England manager playing golf how about Dan get off his backside and 'investigate' the matter himself?

    The new government needs to get hold of this unnecessary level of saturation. Even a WEATHER GIRL has been sent over there, simply to report sports news, ONCE per day, for no longer than 5 minutes!

    Flights, hotels, food, tickets to the games, expenses. A few hours per day work, and even a license fee funded blog.

    Nice work if you can get it, although one sincerely hopes, not for much longer.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hi Dan

    I realise this has been posted some time after your original blog, so you may not see my comments.

    I'm a long time reader, first time poster on your blogs. Your appeal is usually your light-hearted, comical approach and love of all things food. However it is a sign of great journalism.

    I think a majority of posters here clearly understand the reason and motive behind this blog - it is a shame that a minority are questioning your motives. Enjoy the rest of the World Cup - I look forward to more of your blogs, both insightful and humourous.

  • Comment number 83.

    World Cup in South Africa is generating fellow feeling and solidarity among the people on our Planet. Long live the memory of the World Cup in South Africa.

    Very touching blog. Thanks.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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