Lielanie keeps her eye on the ball

Lielanie Africa and Liam Arendse beam for the camera at the Sarepta Netball Club awards ceremony last December.

One woman who has not allowed her physical challenges to get the better of her is Lielanie Africa, from Sarepta.

This 45-year-old wheelchair-bound netball coach is well known to the Kuils River community for her work with the youth (“Women join to make a difference,” Northern News, May 24 2017).

She spends three days a week training the under-15 Sarepta Netball Club, and, thanks to all her netball contacts, the club features in various tournaments and at many matches and they often take home a trophy.

Lielanie says netball has always been her passion and her not being able to play does not mean she cannot pass on her netball knowledge to the young girls in her community.

“The girls I coach are from Kalkfontein, which is not a very wealthy area, but they have so much talent whether it be netball or not,” she says.

“This helps them stay off the streets, and I enjoy being with them on the field. Their love for the game is overwhelming, and it makes me love what I do.”

Lielanie started playing netball in Grade 4 at Irista Primary School in Sarepta.

But then, in November 1994, she and some friends visited the beach and on the way home the bakkie they were riding in was in an accident that left Lielanie paralysed from the waist down.

Her 2-year-old daughter also died in the crash. “This accident is still a mystery but I did not allow it to change my life, that’s important,” she says.

She says when doctors told her she’d never walk again she accepted it and was grateful she could still move her eyes and hands and could still hear.

“My message to those who feel their lives are over once they are in a wheelchair or have a limb amputated it is not the end of your journey; you have rights and abilities just like any other person out there.” She tells the girls on her team and many others that, “challenges will be faced, but staying positive and continuing to love oneself is key”.

Netball coaching is not the only thing keeping Lielanie busy: she has just completed a five-week course on the abuse of women and children, and she plans to use what she has learnt to change lives in her community.