Brookline native to work with orphans in South Africa

Wicked Local staff photo by David Gordon

Director of the New England Sports Academy Elly Hart works with one of her campers at their Westwood facility on Monday, Aug. 23. Hart will soon leave for a three-month stay in South Africa, where she will work with children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
By Laura Paine/staff writer Wicked Local Brookline Posted Aug 25, 2010 @ 02:29 PM Brookline ² Elly Hart loves working with children and has always been taught to give back to her community. In September, the Chestnut Hill native will begin her three-month stay in South Africa at Open Arms Home for Children where she will give her time and generosity to children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic in the Eastern Cape region. Open Arms works toward the goal of providing children with a loving, stable environment where they can grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Hart said she is excited to start helping out and to have the opportunity to go there to teach, develop and implement an afterschool sports program while also providing services at the free health clinic. ³I¶m hoping that my knowledge of general medicine and pharmacology will help me to help others at the clinic,´ Hart said. Hart, a graduate of Brookline High School and James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she earned her degree in sports medicine with a minor in biology, is also the summer camp director for the New England Sports Academy in Westwood in addition to coaching a variety of sports over the last five years. She has raised $900 so far, which will go to purchasing sports equipment, including balls, pinnies, nets and cones for the orphanage.

³Typically, the children arrive back to the orphanage from school with no homework and it will be my job to create engaging and fun learning activities,´ she said. ³I have also been collecting backpacks and art supplies. I have 37 backpacks which I am super excited about because everyone gets a backpack now, so no one will be left out.´ Hart said she is also excited about the chance to be an ³aunty´ for the children, which is the title they give to volunteers staying in the orphanage. She said it will be a great opportunity for children as well as herself. ³My parents have raised me really well and taught me giving back is the best gift you can give anyone,´ Hart said. ³I really want to help the kids out and hopefully change their lives. I believe my life will be changed when I go over there and help out as well.´ Hart first learned about Open Arms Home for Children on her flight back to the United States from South Africa, where she took a class about the country with a focus on HIV and AIDS prevention. ³During the trip, we spent most of our time providing health services at free clinics, talking with children from primary school to secondary school and students at universities about AIDS prevention in the Western Cape of South Africa,´ Hart said. ³I met the director of the [Open Arms Home for Children] on my flight back last year and that¶s how I got involved in this particular orphanage.´ Hart said Open Arms is home to 37 children between the ages of 6 and 12. She will be living in the orphanage with the kids, many of whom lost their parents to AIDS. As a result, some of the children are also HIV/AIDS positive, which she said is sad to think about. ³At the same time, they have been given a great home to live in,´ Hart said. ³Everyone I have spoken to is very loving and kind and everyone is treated the same. ³[HIV] is very hard to contract, so I am not nervous about that at all. I¶m hoping they get to see they are treated the same way. They aren¶t different, they just have different health issues and I don¶t want it to hold them back.´ Laura Paine can be reached at
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