Durban lifeguard Thobani Phoseka dives into a new future after securing a lucrative contract to work at a Dubai resort. Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - A CHANCE meeting between a former Lions rugby hooker and a down-and-out Durban lifeguard who grew up an orphan has turned into a truly lifesaving opportunity for 19-year-old Thobani Phoseka.

Phoseka will fly to Dubai early next year to take up an all-expenses-paid lifeguard job at a renowned ocean-themed resort and five-star hotel in Dubai.

Abandoned soon after birth, Phoseka grew up at St Theresa’s Orphanage in Durban. In addition to other activities offered by St Theresa’s, Phoseka took to swimming under the tutelage of Sydenham swimming coach Easlyn Young.

“He would come to Tills Crescent swimming pool when all the boys were not interested in training, and swim up and down alone for hours on end, totally committed,” recalls Young.

Although Phoseka got his lifeguard qualifications after completing school, he never found a job, but ended up working voluntarily at Sutton Park swimming pool. Often he could not get there as he could not afford taxi fares, so he did part-time gardening work and washed cars to get to the pool.

As fate had it, Phoseka was at Sutton Park recently when development rugby coach and recruiting consultant Trevor van den Berg was conducting interviews for lifeguard jobs at the Atlantis. Although Phoseka was not lined up for an interview and associated tests, a pool attendant alerted Van den Berg to Phoseka’s history and plight.

“I was impressed with Thobani from the very start,” said Van den Berg, who signed Phoseka up for one of nine lifeguard jobs in Dubai.

“You are going to grow, young man! There’s a new world out there waiting for you,” Van den Berg told Phoseka at a meeting to finalise the contract. This includes free airfare to Dubai, accommodation, meals, transport costs and all medical expenses.

“All the money you earn, between R6000 and R9000 a month, you will be able to save,” added Van den Berg.

Phoseka, who also has a passion for music as an aspirant rapper called Xeno, is likely to be singing a few new tunes by Christmas, which looks set to be an extra special family event. He was recently reunited with a blood relative - an aunt - and has since met his siblings, cousins and nieces for the first time.

“We found each other through Facebook,” said Phoseka. “I still know very little about my parents, only that I was dropped off at St Theresa’s as a baby by my mother as she had no money to raise me.”

On learning about the new turns in Phoseka’s life, his former swimming coach was ecstatic.

“There are so many reasons Thobani could have just lost hope, and probably sometimes did,” said Young. “There are some youngsters who get this attitude - ‘just leave me alone’ kind of thing - but Thobani was always open to being helped. He always had this look in his eyes that said ‘I don’t want to give up, but it’s hard’. He deserves every opportunity he can get.”

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