Three different projects in the notorious Johannesburg suburb of Hillbrow receive help from the five footballers’ wives and girlfriends (WAGs) who have left their pampered lives behind to experience the reality of life behind the gloss of the World Cup by working in some of the poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods in the host nation, South Africa.
Formerly an affluent white suburb under apartheid, Hillbrow is now the home of the poor, dispossessed, illegal immigrants and criminal gangs. Prostitution and sex trafficking are massive problems here and the WAGs tackle the issues head on, working with charities and organisations that help women and girls.
Elen Rivas and Ellie Darby work days and nights with former prostitutes, going into brothels to teach sex workers the dangers of HIV infection and trying to persuade them to leave the brothels to begin a new life. Shocked by what they find, Ellie says: “I feel sick … the smell of marijuana and heroin was too much for me.”
They eventually convince a 21-year-old prostitute to take herself and her baby out of a brothel and into a woman’s shelter. Ellie continues: “All it took was two people to ask her about her story, take an interest. One phone call and she’s in this great shelter; she’ll be looked after now and at peace.”
Chantelle Tagoe is based at the controversial Central Methodist Church, which offers 3,000 immigrants a place to sleep. It’s dirty, squalid and dangerous. Chantelle breaks down when she first witnesses the human misery. “For this to be the last resort, it’s awful. Just all the overcrowding and the children … it’s like their whole life is with them.”
In the crèche she meets three-year-old Moses – a withdrawn boy who was abandoned at the church when his mother never returned to pick him up. Chantelle is drawn to him and makes a connection. “What a week’s wages of a footballer could do, imagine what it would do in a place like this… £5,000 would feed a family for 10 years! It puts it all into perspective.” At the end of her stay she pledges to sponsor Moses until he is 18.
Amii Grove and Imogen Thomas are based in a shelter for abused women and teenagers. They work long hours in the kitchens to feed the 150 women who live there. Again, for Imogen the gruelling hours almost prove too much. She walks out in a temper, but eventually returns to work after a rest.
Sunday 23 May
9.00-10.00pm BBC THREE