Training athletes for the future

Likhanyile Kili and Storm Constable go through their paces on the track.

A Surrey Estate athletics programme aims to develop children in all aspects of their lives, and not just on the track and field.

Called Born…2 Be Elite, the organisation was started by Dr Sharrieffa Barksdale, an American 400m hurdles record holder and Justin Gatlin, a five-time gold medallist and Olympian record holder, in 2017.

Dr Barksdale was in South Africa visiting another project, when she spotted the local talent and decided to start an organisation here herself. Soon thereafter Born… 2 Be Elite was launched.

With the pandemic, training and competitions were suspended, but in September 2020, Dr Barksdale asked one of her coaches, Kaltoema Benjamin, if she would relaunch the programme. Ms Benjamin happens to be a staff member at Surrey Primary School, and she kept in touch with Dr Barksdale, as two of Surrey Primary’s pupils were part of the programme.

Kaltoema Benjamin, the administrator of Born…2 Be Elite, shows their training ground they would like to upgrade.

This year, the registered non-profit organisation partnered with Surrey Primary.

“Our aim is to develop the children holistically, and not just on the track. We also have an educational component to it. We do an academic assessment on all our children, and should they need help, they receive assistance from us. Another aim of ours is to pay half of the children’s school fees. Apart from that, we also do outreach and have adopted Leliebloem Children’s Home. Our main objective is to instil values, discipline and respect. From Grade 7, we work with them on their career paths,” Ms Benjamin said.

They also take the children on hikes, and family picnics, among others.

Since the relaunch, they now have 20 children from the age of 12 to 20 on the programme. The organisation has two coaches, an administrator, four teachers and a treasurer. The partnership with the school allows Born… 2 Be Elite to use the school grounds for training. However, the field needs an upgrade. Ms Benjamin said they hope to raise enough funds to erect an Astroturf on the school grounds. Another need is also transport costs.

Surrey Primary principal, Nawaal Williams, said the school is proud to be associated with Born…2 Be Elite.

“We are confident that this partnership will be fruitful and successful, and will help the children to reach their goals. The programme affords our children an opportunity for balance and harmony. Born… 2 Be Elite approached us to be their base school, and this means that children from our school don’t have to travel, and it is also accessible to other children from surrounding areas. The ultimate goal is for Olympians to be born from this programme, and our children have an added advantage,” Ms Williams said.

If you can assist, contact Ms Benjamin at 083 743 8622.

Surrey Primary School partnered with the organisation. From left are, Kaltoema Benjamin, administrator of Born… 2 Be Elite, acting deputy principal Abdallah Salie, and principal Nawaal Williams.