Earlier this summer, I visited United through Sports office in Port Elizabeth, where Nick, the founder and executive director, gave me a tour of the facilitites, introduced me (and arranged conversations) with project staff, and even took me to visit their sport programs happening in schools in the community. It was so much fun. And I learned a thing or two from a few of the girls about playing cricket (which I'd never tried before)!
United through Sports is definitely addressing a need in the community: empowerment and education through sports. Via collaborations with the local communtiy, United for Sports runs after school sports programs, which encourages youth being physically fit/active, and creates an avenue through which they can provide education about HIV/AIDs and sexual health.
Additionally, the sports activities also help to identify talented athletes, which they then train and coach to a level that makes them eligible for sports scholarships wihch grant them acccess to better schools. But United through Sports doesn't just stop there. Once their youth are admitted to better schools in the area, they offer aftter-school mentoring, coaching, and tutoring to ensure that their youth get the support they need to succeed through graduation.
They're currently planning to implement their scholarship programs (including the mentoring/tutoring that comes with them) through university level. This, for me, was the most impressive part of the program; that the staff and founder are aware of the social inequtiies that create obstacles for youth even when they're granted opportunities for better education/success. Unitd Through Sports is committed to maintaining their role as a support system for as long as the young people need.
Between meeting the warm, friendly staff, interacting with their international volunteers, and getting a bunch of young girls to do as many jumping jacks for a photo shoot with my digital camera, I had an amazing experience. Check out this short video of some of the girls in the United for Sports program in our failed attempt to say "Love is my Revolution." What a blast we had!
As the term came to the end for a three week school holiday, it was time to reward the Junior School of Excellence (JSE) children for their dedication throughout the term. A big bang at the end of each term is a good way to keep the children motivated. This was also a great way of getting our older Senior School of Excellence (SSE) kids to ‘give back’ by chaperoning the JSE kids and providing some mentorship during the day.
On the 26th June 2012, eleven UTS staff and six SSE kids chaperoned fifty children from the JSE on a trip to Seaview Lion Park. The selection is based on the reward system we use at the JSE for the most consistent attendees. As well as 30 Lions, the park also boasts other big cats such as tigers, leopards, cheetahs and a beautiful panther cub; a rare sight to behold. The children got to see some of their favourite wild animals, and were excited to be in such close proximity to them! Giraffes, zebras, impalas and many more animals freely roam around the park. To make the experience more fun, snacks were prepared for them to enjoy while spotting the wildlife and after leaving the park, everyone was treated to a yummy lunch at KFC!
The day was an amazing start to their holiday and great way for the children to bond with each other, outside the school environment. It was the ideal opportunity for the older SSE children to share information about their experiences of the change from a township school to a multi-racial one, and a great way to keep the younger children inspired to do their best so they could also be selected for the SSE next year.
As the organisation, it is vital for us to engage kids from our programs in fun, social activities; especially activities that are educational and that broaden their perspectives in more ways than one. The day trip to Seaview was much appreciated by the kids; something they will never forget, they couldn’t wait to get home and share their incredible experience with their families!
"After the day I had more knowledge about wild animals. I did not even know the meaning of the word "extinct" and how important it is to look after our natural environment. It was so much fun seeing the wild animals and how beautiful they are when close" - Babalwa Bassie, 13 yeras old.
The start of 2012 marked the beginning of a new program at United Through Sport; the Junior School of Excellence (JSE). This is an after-school program based at Isaac Booi, a school in the disadvantaged communities of Port Elizabeth that we have worked with for the past 6 years. Children from the Zwide community are invited to partake in the sports development, personal mentoring, academic support as well as life skills that are offered in this program over a one year period.
From our Mass Participation Program, children are identified for their dedication and commitment to the program, as well as their sporting ability. UTS also works with local sports federations to identify talented children to partake in the JSE. A thorough selection process is done, which includes home visits to assess the situation at home and have a better understating of the family background. At UTS, we aim to have a personal relationship with each and every child in the JSE program to better understand the behaviour patterns and personalities of the children. On a daily basis, the children also receive a nutritional meal in the program. This on its own is an incentive for some of the children not to miss a day’s attendance.
During their year long program at the Junior School of Excellence, these children will have the opportunity to be trained by top sports coaches, play in challenging fixtures, receive mentoring and academic support as well as inter-act with International volunteers who play a big role in boosting the confidence and English skills. The beneficiaries of this program are children that come from the poorest backgrounds in broken homes and go to disadvantaged schools. The JSE therefore provides a platform for these children to be developed holistically as well as be exposed to opportunities they may not have had otherwise. As part of the program, these children will have the opportunity of meeting and inter-acting with some of their local sport role models, who also come from similar backgrounds. This will mean a lot to these children as it will give them hope for a bright future and a drive to succeed.
At the end of the year, a selected number of graduates will move on to the next level, the Senior School of Excellence (SSE), where they will be afforded scholarships to Former Model C schools for their high school career. At the SSE they will receive top level teaching, highly intense sports coaching and they will school with children from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Most importantly their chances of going on to University will rise from 3% (the township norm) to 98% (the norm for fomer model c schools in this area).
Towards the end of last year, UTS donated a series of encyclopedias to Isaac Booi Primary School. The donation was a great way of strengthening the relationship with the school. Having such useful sources of information for the children would not only add value to our project, but to the school as a whole. The principal of Isaac Booi, Mr Mtyobo, was thrilled to receive the latest addition to the school library (a beautifully painted container in the school yard as there is not a library facility in the actual school building). It is “normal” school infrastructure such as a school library, school hall and sports facilities which are standard at Former Model C schools but are rarely seen in township schools. Through programs such as our Junior School of Excellence we aim to afford all children these opportunities, reaching out to the poorest families.
We are excited to tell you about Zolisa Faba; a 14 year old boy from our Mass Participation Programme. Zolisa progressed into our Senior School of Excellence Program with a scholarship to Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg. He has now completed his first year at Jeppe, and what a change we have seen in him!
For any young boy, growing up without a father always has difficult implications, but for Zolisa the situation worsened when his mother fell terminally ill two years ago. His mother had to be moved to a specialist hospital in Cape Town for the demanding care she needed. It felt as if his, and his brothers, world was falling apart and he had no option but to leave home.
Living with their Great Aunt, and seven other people in a small house, things were not quite the same for these two boys. The whole household was dependent upon the pension of their great Aunt (R880 per month / £73) as it is the sole source of income for the household.
Zolisa felt he and his brother were a burden to his Aunt, not surprising when her pension equated to less than R5 (40p) per person per day. As a result there were many periods when Zolisa was only eating a meal once every three days.
When the opportunity came along to send one of our talented sports men to one of the top schools in the country, it was not difficult for us to choose Zolisa – not because of his circumstances but in spite of them. He was one of our most dedicated learners, his enthusiasm and determination within our program stood out. He was dedicated and committed, regardless of the family situation back home, and clearly wanted more from his life.
Zolisa now eats regular meals, has grown hugely both physically and mentally and after just one year at his new school, stands out as a fine, well mannered young man. Most importantly he is receiving a top level education which will allow him to progress onto almost any career path he chooses and ultimately completely change his own future and that of his family.
Zolisa is a great example of the opportunities we strive to create for our children. We are so proud of how far Zolisa has come and so excited about where he is going!
(Special thanks to Theo Jackson Scholarship Fund for making this possible)
June 16th marks a very special day for the youth of South Africa; it is celebrated as Youth Day. Being an organisation that has as its primary goal the development of youth, United Through Sport SA held a HCT 5-a-side Tournament at a small town just outside of Port Elizabeth, Addo, home to the beautiful Addo Elephant Park. The point of this tournament was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to encourage HIV counselling and testing.
The 95 children playing on the day comprised of 7 local soccer teams and one local netball team; which were all under the age of 16, with the senior teams being the South African Police Services (SAPS) playing against the local team, Addo Legends. Also taking part in the tournament were our School of Excellence soccer boys and netball girls. The local police and health department were very involved on the day, making it the success it was.
Opening the day before the games was a performance from local traditional dancers which had the crowd amazed as the little boys and girls showed off their talents to the beats of the drum. When that was done, the first round of the soccer started.
The community was really giving their support, with the old and the young cheering on. Being spectators was not the only way they were getting involved though; the queues for the HIV testing were getting longer by the minute. The added extra benefit with the mobile clinic at the field was the fact that the nurses were also screening for TB, blood sugar, haemoglobin and blood pressure, not only HIV testing and counselling. Olive Leaf was there as well, giving HIV counselling and testing. Some of the children were busy with our life skills guys doing activities from our curriculum, which promotes abstinence and educates about this deadly disease. Condoms were also made available to everyone, encouraging safe sex to the youth.
Our SSE netball team won the junior tournament beating their Addo opponents convincingly. The police team was starting to warm up now, knowing the masters game was coming up after the semi-finals of the junior team. With the HIV counselling and testing still carrying on in the mobile clinics, the day was getting even more exciting and the pressure on the local teams was building up. The SAPS team proved to everyone watching that once you join the force, you go through a lot of fitness training and used this to press home their advantage and win the master’s game.
The UTS SA boys faced the Buffalos in the final round and contrary to what everyone might believe, we really did not want to win this final match… but our boys just could not play down their talent! They were the winners of the tournament, with a 2-1 victory.
The post-match presentation had prizes for the following individuals: top goal scorer, goal keeper of the tournament, player’s player, player of the tournament and coach of the tournament. The senior team got a floating trophy and bragging rights!
With a total of 74 youth between 13 and 18 years old testing on the day, and 45 between 19 and 35 years old, the day was a success for our first HCT Tournament in Addo. The community of Addo was a pleasure to work with. The event would not have been the success it was if we did not have support from the Cacadu Health Department, Olive Leaf, the SAPS, the Sundays River Citrus Company (oranges were the order of the day!) and Zola, who co-ordinated all the Addo logistics for us. We look forward to doing some more work with this community, as their appreciation was very encouraging.
Of the 74 children, none were HIV positive and of the older youth, 24 % tested HIV positive. This just proved how programmes such as ours are needed to keep the young generation in the HIV-free zone. The community of Addo pleaded us to come back and get their kids more involved in sport. “We are happy when our kids are having fun and learning at the same time, as AIDS is a big problem” commented one of the parents.
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