In the midst of Cosmo City in Johannesburg, South Africa is a very special gym lead by South African Hero, Claude Maphosa. Here, almost every day you can find the female senior citizens of Cosmo City gearing up and going glove-to-glove with their trainers. These are the Boxing Grannies!
The Making of a Hero
Claude has been up since 4.am. He starts his day with prayer and a simple meal before continuing his busy day making a difference in people’s lives.
Claude Maphosa, or Coach, as most people call him says he was born and bred in the fitness industry. At age 5 he got a yellow belt in Karate, a black belt by age 15 and, later, opened the first Dojo in the township. Add an award-winning bodybuilding career, deep wisdom of the streets and a strong faith into the mix and you get the phenomenon that is Claude Maphosa today. Coach, mentor, philanthropist, and founder of the nonprofit organization A-Team Foundation, he is dedicated to his community and improving the lives of those he trains – some of the most vulnerable members of society. He is a firm believer in community development through sport and faces his many challenges head-on.
“As a non-profit organization you have to fund everything yourself and whatever you have you give back to what you do. You adopt the world and they become your family. So community development becomes your lifestyle. ” he says.
I ask him how the Boxing Grannies came about. “Five years back,” he tells me, “as I opened a gym in the remote township of Cosmo City, a group of older ladies approached me and asked if they can join the gym.” They wanted to improve their health and learn to defend themselves – an essential skill in South Africa, a country with unacceptably high rates of assault, rape and violent crime. This unusual request got him thinking. He went for guidance from his spiritual father who supported the idea and the Boxing Grannies were born!
The Boxing Grannies and their trainers have been gaining international attention, ever since, and are even part of an Airbnb experience where you can train with them and meet Claude at his gym in Cosmos City, Johannesburg. Some of them are over 80 and their camaraderie and sense of community are palpable. Through their daily training, they have found purpose, friendship and healthy living. The kind of thing that Claude Maphosa lives for.
These friendly female fighters are not his only project. Claude is also committed to improving the academic lives and fitness levels of the children of Cosmos City. His NPO A-team Foundation is actively involved in promoting and assisting all athletes from various walks of life, especially in the underdeveloped areas of Johannesburg. His mission is to offer ALL children a well-rounded fitness program that helps to fight childhood obesity, build self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life.
The A-team foundation also makes a difference academically by collaborating with industry giants like IBM to help the disadvantaged community, where many resources critical to education are generally not available and are still in the process of being developed. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education is severely lacking in the public school systems of South Africa. Many learners in Cosmos City, and throughout South Africa, face major challenges that can hinder their chance at an education. Low income, lack of access to resources and learning support, and challenging living conditions lead to high dropout rates, and fulfilling your dreams can seem impossible. The A-team foundation members give motivational talks in townships, exposing learners to positive role models as well as assisting learning with after-school lessons and resources like tutoring and mentoring.
Claude is also involved in the Hero Nearby initiative, having signed up as an organization early on. “A great initiative – very well done!” he says.
Leading with Love
Claude’s personal motto is lead with love. He says that his life experiences have led him to understand that without love you can never achieve real, meaningful success and if you lead with love you can always overcome the challenges you face. His advice to the young people he works with is to stay true to themselves.
“I have learned to let God take control; we are just vessels and we all have assignments and something to give in our unique way. It’s never easy, but faith is the most important part of life.” When I ask him if he could put me in touch with any other South African Heroes, he reels off a list of names and ensures me there are many more unknown South African Heroes out there making a difference in their communities. I shall have to find them for the next interviews.
By Merryn Wainwright