A Cape Town man on a visit from New York has been left stranded in South Africa because of the coronavirus-related suspension of international air travel. But this has not stopped him from making a difference in the community in which he grew up

Shaun Petersen, 41, originally from Lavender Hill in Cape Town, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York City.

Petersen moved to New York in 2013, where he works at Workaway International as a soccer coach and referee for sports clubs and varsity schools in the Brooklyn area.

“I came to South Africa to celebrate my birthday and host an annual soccer tournament on 27 April, an event that I started last year for underprivileged youth in the community,” said Petersen.

“To me sport is life, and the soccer tournament I hosted in 2019 with the help of various people was my 40th birthday gift to the community that raised me into the man that I am today,” added Petersen.

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Petersen said holding the event last year at his former high school, Steenberg High School, was very rewarding and emotional, adding that he could finally give back to the school that gave so much to him as a young man.

“I grew up without a father, and one of my teachers, Mr Lawrence, was really a pillar of strength to me. He was the father figure that I never had.”

Petersen said soccer saved his life

“The area of Lavender Hill and Pelikan Park is overridden with drugs and gangsters, but despite all that, the place is filled with lots of good – good things can come out of Lavender Hill,” said Petersen.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Petersen’s plans of hosting the soccer tournament were derailed.

Petersen said that if all goes well, next year he hopes to hold the tournament on Robben Island, adding that many underprivileged children on the Cape Flats have yet to visit the historical island where former president Nelson Mandela was incarcerated by the apartheid government.

Petersen aims, through his foundation, to give South African children the opportunity to visit the US to take part in various sporting codes, which will broaden their horizons and change their lives.

Petersen said the tournament is his way of giving back to his community and to inspire the youth on the Cape Flats.

South Africa implemented a ban on international travel in March, which meant that Petersen was unable to return to the US. He has temporarily moved back in with his mom, but space is limited. “I had to construct a makeshift bedroom,” he explained.

“My life has literally come to a standstill due to Covid-19,” added Petersen.

Since he hasn’t been working for the last few weeks, Petersen has resorted to selling firewood and various other things to get by.

Despite these circumstances, Petersen has opened a soup kitchen in the impoverished area, citing the great need in Pelikan Park.

“We’re planning to feed people three times a week,” said Petersen. “We want to give them something warm to eat at night, because, yes, there are plenty of soup kitchens around, but there’s nothing around my area.”

Petersen is calling on people to donate produce or anything they can to help keep the soup kitchen running, which will be managed by his mom and volunteers from the area.

“For now I am going to serve the community until I can go back to New York City, but my family will continue with the soup kitchen once I leave,” said Petersen.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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Author: ANA Newswire