Where do we begin? Booysie's role in the Culcheth2SOWETO family is indescribable. To people looking in at the project, he may be seen as just 'Booysie, the man who provides the transport', however to everyone who is involved in the partnership, he has touched the hearts and minds of each individual in numerous ways. To us he is so much more than our transport and our guide; he is 'Booysie: admirable, inspirational, brave and a true attribute of the project.
Last year, when the South Africans visited England, we had the true honour of meeting, for the first time, Booysie Patrick Khanyile. Booysie gave so much to us in the brief time we spent with him. He offered inspiring stories, first hand accounts of the Apartheid era and suffering of the black people, and an increased motivation and understanding for the project. To the students lucky enough to continue on to phase two of the project, Booysie became less of a stranger and more of a friend. Both Matseliso and Culcheth High School consider him as not just a friend but part of the UKASA family. He addressed this on the first day by compassionately saying 'I'm a very lucky man, because I am family to both Culcheth and Matseliso'
The first day we arrived, Booysie greeted us at the airport alongside other Matseliso staff with hugs and smiles. Instantly the excitement of being in South Africa dramatically increased just by meeting and being reunited with him.
As the week continued, we gradually learned more about Booysie. I don't think he realises the impact he has had on everyone he has met with his great wisdom and love. Booysie answered any questions we had and shared incredibly touching, heartwarming and often hard hitting stories of events he has lived through. He helped us to understand more about the Apartheid and what part he played in the many protests for freedom. Booysie made many opportunities happen that wouldn't be available to others, for example meeting an incredible lady named Antoinette. For those who don't know, Antoinette is the girl pictured in an image that was seen all over the world from the Soweto Youth Uprising of 1976, and in my opinion is one of most powerful images used to summaries the apartheid. Antoinette's brother, Hector Pieterson, is the boy being carried in this picture and he sadly lost his life during the protests on that June day. Thanks to Booysie's efforts, we were able to meet this inspirational lady and hear her story about what happened to her brother, and how he is remembered following his death.
Today is our last night in South Africa and we have been blessed enough to enjoy extended time with Booysie and ask any remaining questions about his life that we may still have. We also got the chance to thank him for being part of the family and giving us all the opportunities that we may have never experienced if it wasn't for him. After all questions were answered and thanks was given we presented him with three football shirts which he was extremely grateful for and smiled with delight. As he was leaving he said 'I will be a happy man, when England and South Africa become one.'
Booysie is a true veteran and ambassador of this amazing project and he himself is a truly admirable man. He is not afraid to share his stories and opinions on South Africa and has taught us much more then was written on the walls of museums. He is an inspiration to us all and on behalf of Culcheth High School, we can't wait to see him again...