Marching squad keeps kids off the streets

Vision Community Marching Squad coach Teano Patience with Ester Ellie and Tiffany Campbell.

A Strandfontein marching squad is hitting the right notes as it aims to keep youth off the streets and provide a positive alternative for them to dream, believe and achieve.

Vision Community Marching Squad was established in 2015 and registered as a non-profit organisation a year later.

It already has more than 40 members but coach Teano Patience said there is always space for more.

“We want to keep kids off the street and take them to places (their) parents could not take them,” he said.

He said the squad was a social club and members benefited from the discipline, respect, neatness and creativity taught when drilling.

Mr Patience, a teacher at Dennegeur Primary School, where the squad trains every Friday between 3pm and 5.30pm, said they want to teach the children to strive for excellence, which can be achieved with hard work.

He is supported by about 10 adults, who attend practice sessions, put their hands in their pockets and mentor the children.

Squad members have to bring their quarterly reports to the adults, who can help them or refer the pupils to peers who can help them.

Mr Patience said the pupils were doing reasonably well at their respective schools and were committed to achieving their goals, whether it be in academics, sports or in drilling. “We have a passion. It is a calling to be with the kids – to make sure they are on the right road.

“We see their frustration with each other to get the moves right but also at their parents or families, when they do not have the support,” he said.

There is no age limit to the squad, which is affiliated to the Western Province School Marching Drill and Exhibition Association.

Members of the association and former squad members visit their weekly training sessions to give tips, ensure competition requirements are met and motivate the youth to achieve their dreams.

The squad’s first captain Candice Shannon, from Schaapkraal, is now a member of the South African National Defence Force.

Parent and squad supporter Michelle Erasmus said they want members to return after they matriculate to start coaching and giving back to the community.

“When we leave then they can take the vision over and can be examples to other youth that drilling works.”

She said they did not really want to do competitions but rather show the community the children’s talent and show the children places outside Mitchell’s Plain.

The squad will be going on tour to Oudtshoorn in September.

Working on a minimal budget, coming from individual donors and sponsors, they scrape money together to hire a bus and perform at community events, business celebrations, sporting events and at the Cancer Association of South Africa Relay for Life.

“We want to draw the kids. We want them to do something they can grow with and we can see how marching has changed their lives,” she said.

Ms Erasmus said there are times when they struggle with the children but they are working hard to achieve their dream of building a community one child at a time.

“We want children and adults to recognise their achievements and to build the community with parents and children,” she said.

For more information about the squad, to join or to donate call Oscar Erasmus on 071 526 5728.