Drill squad raises funds for contest abroad

Newfields Primary Marching Squad coach Gino Thaysen, Grade 4 pupil Leah van Staden, and squad manager Tasneem Saunders.

A nine-year-old girl and her marching squad from Newfields Primary School have a chance to represent South Africa at an international event in Thailand, but they need help getting there.

Leah van Staden and her team have been chosen to compete in the Thailand World Music Championship, in December but R20 000 is standing between the Grade 4 pupil and her dream of competing.

Her mother, Renecia van Staden, has appealed to the public to help her raise the money.

The Newfields Primary Marching Squad was started three years ago by two teachers, Tasneem Saunders, now the squad’s manager, and Gino Thaysen, the coach, who wanted to keep the children busy and off the streets.

The 80-strong squad is often invited to community events and has won several competitions.

The squad’s talent was spotted at the Bayhill soccer tournament, and the founder of the South African Marching Show Band, Fadiel Gasant, asked if the squad wanted to represent South Africa at the international event.

The R20 000 each child needs covers travel, accommodation, their uniform and part of their meals. About half of the squad are hoping to compete. For many it will be their first time on a plane.

Leah said she was excited and scared at the prospect of flying on a plane for the first time, but she is keen to see what Thailand is like.

“I made many new friends. I wanted to join them because it seemed so attractive to me. It is hard work and we practice a lot, but I have so much fun,” Leah said.

Mr Thaysen said the extramural activity promoted discipline and loyalty.

“We didn’t realise when we started the squad, how this extramural would be able to take our children to places,” Mr Thaysen said.

Principal Roderick Smith said: “. Generally, it is highly unlikely that our children can travel overseas, as we come from a deprived community. Many of our pupils are from Hanover Park. I know it will be a struggle for most of them to raise the R20 000, but we will not give up on the dream.”

The squad will perform at the Joseph Stone Auditorium on Friday June 14, at 7.30pm. Call the school at 021 692 1386 or Ms Van Staden at 071 971 8814 if you can help.