As gang violence and crime continues to plague various communities in Cape Town, an Ocean View resident has taken it upon himself to keep children off the streets by using the game of chess to impart life lessons.
Ocean View resident Vasco Vigis explained that although he grew up in a modest home the area, he would step outside into a “hostile environment” drenched in social ills and temptation. Without elaborating on his sentencing, Vigis explained that he reached a turning point when he broke at the sight of “disappoint in (his) parents eyes when they came to visit (him) in prison”.
His passion for chess, however, began at the tender age of 12, where he played his first games at the local library. Once he claimed victory after two defeats, he began enjoying the game and explained that its aim was synonymous to a life of progress.
“I thought I understood the rules of the game but later in life, I understood the fundamentals- where the pieces move and why they move that way,” he said.
“The pawns are like your soldiers, they’re the least valuable on the board. But, once they get to the enemy’s back row, they can become whatever they want to be- the Rook, the Knight, the Bishop or the Queen.”
“I take this to the children and I tell them that everybody starts ‘here’…but you can end up there. But the pawn itself cannot just ‘end up’ there, it’s going to need support from the bishop, the queen etc. That’s what it’s all about- its support structure and that is community, family, finances,” said Vigis.
The response from the community, Vigis noted, was positive. Although he cannot see an immediate change in the number of children off the streets, he remains hopeful that they simply haven’t reached that point “yet”. He added that one of the benefits is that children are using their time constructively and avoiding other vices.
“The thing about chess is that you can play it anywhere, in the street, at home, all you need is a chessboard and motivation.”
He teamed up with two local NGO’s, one of which belongs to his younger brother Dimitri. The Vigis Home of Hope and Cape Flats wellness centre have assisted the club with venues and food. Vigis also expressed gratitude at the Ocean View and Kommetjie communities for donating chess boards.
Typically, the children would have a meal, talk and then begin competing against each other.
“You cannot test children that are hungry,” he said.
He explained that young mothers are enticed to the club with the promise of receiving food and the children hereby get familiar with the game from as early as infant stages.
“(Then) the children come in their arms and all you see is their big, eyes of wonder. Chess, throughout the years, was associated with nerdy and brainy people but it’s not even that! You don’t need to be smart; you just need a passion.
When questioned about the club’s vision, Vigis said that he is hoping to have all the organisations on board to support and improve the club.
“The community and government structures just need to get behind the children.”
Vigis further encouraged community members to impart the knowledge they have on to children, regardless of what skills they have.
“Everybody picks up a skill at school before you become a delinquent teenager, where I’m sure many people have been before- be it chess, soccer, basketball, brass…” he said.
“Take that little bit of skill that you have learnt and give it back into the community. You don’t need to be the best at it, all you need to do is know the roles and the children will put their passion into it and take it further. We need to create the space and facilitate this as adults,” concluded Vigis.
Founder of the Vigis Home of Hope can be contacted for more details around donations or contributions on 063 545 2998.