Cape Town Crusaders: Meet Roxanne Davids

Chess enthusiast and social activist extraordinaire strives to restore life’s lustre through games

Meet Mitchells Plain resident Roxanne Davids, avid chess player and independent community visionary. Although all grown up and shackled to a 9-to-5 job, this dedicated woman hasn’t forgotten her checked primary school days or the benefits of the board game. For her, chess instilled discipline and patience and helped her focus on her education. 

Now she’s bringing her experience back to the table by coaching young children in her community for a mere R5 a lesson. For the youth, chess becomes a reason to smile, a means for forgetting daily challenges and getting on a path towards positive development. Roxanne hopes to begin to change communities from the ground up, or in other words, through the dedicated minds of children.

How did the concept behind this project first occur to you/what inspired you?
The concept of awakening the mind through a chess revolution is not a new one, but I saw the potential chess had to bring people together and to impact the lives of kids. So, with the support of Reuben Salimu from African Chess Lounge, I decided to go for it and base my work around chess with social initiative organisations ‘100 in 1 day’ and ‘Open Streets’. 
Chess has been a hobby of mine since primary school, and after being exposed to more kids at the chess club I participate in (Mitchells Plain Chess Club), I realized the game had the ability to improve cognitive function in children and adults. These kids were focused at the board, patient and helped each other as well. Children and uplifting my community have always been my inspiration. 

When did you begin this project?
I joined a chess club in my community a couple of months ago, and then started coaching juniors at Mitchells Plain Primary on Saturday mornings with Andrew Talmarkes. Spending time with these kids you realize there is a lot that is wrong in their lives, in their community, but when they come to the board, that is forgotten and their passion and love for the game outshines their circumstances, if only for a little while.
The parents come to the coaching as well, supporting their kids as best they can, and this strengthens their relationships as well.

How does the project work?
It’s simple: we take chess to the streets and to the children, and to anyone that wants to play and support this initiative.
At R5 a lesson, we spend time coaching the kids on the game and teaching them to explore the game, delve deeper into theory, get them to ask questions and think for the better move.  “If you see a good move, look for a better one” (chess adage).

Why do you feel this sort of work is so important?I think the need for community involvement is so important, and chess is this driver to get to kids and to get them thinking differently. Chess is a battlefield of the mind, and it takes a strong mind and will, but these need to be developed. By starting young, kids grow up to be better decision-makers who are more disciplined and strategic in their thinking.

Do you see a future for your project?
All change activists see a future for their project and greater mission, and I do believe there is a future in utilising chess as a tool to awaken the minds of children. I would like to see a second grandmaster [the highest honour an international chess player can attain] coming from Mitchells Plain as it was a monumental achievement in 2012 when the first was crowned! All we need is support, perseverance, the will to succeed and passion!

What was your most memorable/touching moment in this work?
Working with kids who have a passion for learning this game and wanting to learn and go further.

Are there opportunities for other ordinary South Africans to donate time or resources to your project?
I’ve been so focused on these kids and on bringing chess to them and impacting their lives for the better, I haven’t stopped to think about that.
Resources are always good. We need chess sets for these kids, some parents can’t afford to buy them (chess sets cost anything from R30 to R100). We need trestles, tables, anything to put boards on (African chess lounge lent us their own chairs and trestles for Open Streets). Other than that, this is a labour of love, and I will continue to bring chess to the streets as best I can!

What advice could you give to people who want to get involved in their own project?
Just do it! Get one or two people who believe in your cause to back you and go out and make a difference. Don’t forget to plan, as forgetting to plan means you’re planning to fail - and don’t listen to negativity. The world needs more positivity – be the change!

By Cyprien Pearson

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What is Cape Town Crusaders?

We all know that non-profits and charitable organizations around Cape Town do much for our communities. We hear about their good deeds and we see the benefits of their services, but what about the individuals who do transformational work that’s equally commendable —those whose names go unheard and unappreciated? Cape Town Crusaders is our commitment to putting a spotlight on some of the selfless souls who are working independently to uplift those in need.

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Kids: enter and win the 3rd Annual ACL Chess Festival.

Want to donate to other social causes? Check out our list of charitable organisations in Cape Town to find an organisation that could use your spare cash.

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