For the past two-and-a-half years the group has hosted the chess tournament at the Rylands library with the aim of providing a platform for disadvantaged children to integrate with other children of various backgrounds and cultures, thereby enhancing their social skills.
Friends of the library started more than 10 years ago and consists of five core members and hundreds of community members doing outreach work and making events possible.
The group hosts various activities at the library, works with the local neighbourhood watch to keep the area surrounding the library safe, organises recreational and educational activities for seniors, and every month provides groceries to the disadvantaged senior citizens with the help of an organisation called Planet Mercy.
They also provide a guidance and advice service to the youth and refer them to the appropriate organisations for help, when necessary. Every Friday there is also a Xhosa class in the library.
According to the group’s chairperson, Abdul Hakeem Syed, chess is a way to hone one’s logical skills – and have fun – and it is done in a healthy atmosphere which keeps children off the streets.
He said two years ago another member of the group, Eugene Delport, decided to organise a tournament after the library hosted a chess event.
“That’s when we saw the magic happen. We saw all kinds of kids that would normally not mix come together as a big family, play together and stick together.
“Barriers of age, race, colour, creed, wallet size and culture all melted right before our eyes. As Friends of the library our very purpose is to serve the community the best we can, no matter how small that may seem.
“We decided that one good way to serve would be to bring the diverse communities together. Our target is mainly youth, though everyone, young and old, are welcome.
“We offer special prizes to physically challenged people, and provide trophies and prizes to winners. Food and certificates are also given to all participants. We have been very successful in our efforts so far and have been growing with every event,” he said.
The next event is scheduled for Thursday December 13, at the Rylands civic centre in Gatesville, from 9am to 4pm. About 150 children are expected to participate.
There will be three categories of players – beginners, intermediate and advanced.
For more information, call the Rylands library on 021 637 2220.