Chania
ABUBAKAR Cassiem’s aim in life is not to save the world, but he does want to make it a better place for the downtrodden and the destitute, for underprivileged children and the elderly.

Boebie, as he is affectionately known, is driven by the desire to make the lives of others more bearable. The 54-year-old Cassiem heads a non-governmental organisation, Sport Stepping Stones (SSS), in Cape Town, which feeds thousands of young children and the elderly during the holy month of Ramadan. He and his organisation have made a big difference in the lives of thousands of people across Cape Town.

Although he has been doing this for almost 20 years, the hunger to give more still remains very strong today. This, says Boebie, is what drives him on a daily basis.

The excitement in his eyes when he speaks about helping others is testament to a man on a mission. The way he commands his peers when he speaks shows the respect that he has built up during his years of caring and giving. Boebie quickly adds that his organisation does not only feed people; they also teach them to fend for themselves. “I believe that it is better to teach someone to fish, instead of just feeding them the fish,” he says. He says that the SSS organisation also teaches life skills and educates people about Islam. “We take a holistic approach,” he explains. And the result of this approach shows in the numbers. The organisation is growing every year. We started out by feeding about 50 children. Now we assist about 2 000.”

He quickly adds that this organisation does not only work with Muslim people but with all communities who need assistance.

“Although our programme is based on an Islamic Ethos, this is not a Muslim programme. It is open to everybody who wants to better their lives. It is open to all who need help.”

His organisation also has a sporting division, which helps young people develop not only skills to participate in sport but also the skills to coach at club and school level. Boebie proudly mentions that his SSS Academy has produced several coaches who are now working at schools and clubs in the province. His coaches can be found daily at work at the Turfhall Stadium in Athlone. At the headquarters of SSS, there are soccer fields, squash courts and netball courts. The organisation also caters for rugby, athletics, cricket, and has a marching band. He says that his organisation has formed a partnership with the City of Cape Town, which allows them to use the Turfhall Stadium as their base.

Boebie says that the seeds for his desire to help others were planted in his family home in Claremont even before they were forced out by the Apartheid Group Areas Act more than 35 years ago. “My mother and father believed in helping others. My father , Igshaan, was heavily involved in every aspect of Islamic activity in the Claremont area. When we were forced out and had to move to Sherwood Park on the Cape Flats, the family continued supporting less fortunate people.

“As children, my five siblings and I took part in all activities in the area,” he says. “My mother, Asa, gave food to the poor and we regularly had people at our home seeking assistance. That is where the foundation was laid for my involvement in helping others.”

Boebie says that in the beginning the activities of SSS were funded by his family, as his father had a construction business. Fortunately, a couple of sponsors have come aboard to make this easier for him and his organisation. But, as with any organisation such as this, more help is always needed. “Helping others has always been part of my life. That is what I grew up with. When I got married and moved out of my parent’s home, I continued to support underprivileged people.

“When my wife died I made a promise to myself that I will continue this work until I too close my eyes one day,” says the man who describes helping others as his passion.

This organisation’s Iftaar Programme during Ramadan has grown to such an extent that it includes places all over Cape Town. Young children are bussed in from places such as Mitchells Plain, Lavender Hill, Browns Farm, Khayelitsha, Phoenix, Mfuleni, Manenberg, Flamingo Park, Bonteheuwel and fed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month of Ramadan. On the last Saturday before Eid, a Mass Iftaar takes place at Spine Road Secondary School where more that 2 000 children are fed.

Boebie proudly mentions that his mother still plays a big supporting role, even at the age of 86. “When we moved to Sherwood Park she was the one that continued feeding children. They use to refer to her as Mother Mary,” he says with a smile.

“That was the catalyst for what we are doing today.”

Boebie has found satisfaction in all the things that he has done. However, there remains one dream that Boebie would love to fulfil before he is taken off this earth. Boebie explains: “My dream is to one day take about 20 of our people and go to Palestine. I want to go there, not only to feed children, but to play with them. I want to go there and put smiles on the faces of those young children.

“We see so many photographs of Palestinian children but never with any of them smiling. That is so sad and I hope that one day I can make a difference in that country. I hope that one day I can make a group of children there smile.”

He says that he has already started putting this plan in motion. “But as everything in life, we have to work hard to get the necessary funding.”

The hard work that Boebie and his colleagues are doing in Cape Town is already laying the foundation to make this dream come true.

Boebie grew up in Claremont and attended Kenilworth Methodist and Rosemead Primray Schools, before finishing off at Livingston High. He also studied further at the University of the Western Cape. He did various sport’s courses overseas and did training through the Western Cape Department of Sport where he qualified as a facilitator in Sport. Boebie says that his children are still small, but that he hopes his organisation will “create enough Boebies” to take the work they are doing now to the next level. “Education is very very important. It is important for us to develop future leaders. Therefore, we not only feed the children but also educate them.

“Our motto is: A Child in Sport is a child out of Court.

And with this motto Boebie and his tireless workforce are trying their utmost to make South Africa a better place for all.
Chania