6 Month Expedition Starts in Ethiopia

Building on the success of 2011′s preparation work and the foundations laid during 2012′s first mission, United Through Sport’s, Bhubesi Pride project, embarked on its second expedition this week to support the development of rugby in ten African countries and see the sport inspire further sustainable community projects.

Our man Richard Bennett leads a team of six members, from various countries, who all have a wealth of experience and understanding of the game. Over the next 6 months, using two 4x4s, they will take important messages to communities all over Africa using the power of sport to bring people together, have fun and teach important life skills to young people. Continued school links between the UK and Africa will also be a key focus for the expedition.

This week the team have been visiting various schools around Ethopia (see photos below) and will be heading south to enter Kenya on the 16th Feb.

Richard Bennett explains more about their first week: “When looking to develop something new in any area, it’s key to work with local, responsible staff that can take up the ‘topic’ and grow or expand ‘it’ sustainably. At United Through Sport, we know the importance of working with local teachers and coaches as well as children in several schools to provide the community here [in Ethiopia] the best opportunity to keep rugby going, and see it as a tool to unite communities!”

Team Members:
Richard Bennett
Ryan Jones
Juan Pablo Andrade
Guillaume Boisseau
Ben Illingworth
Jonathan Markowitz
Mike Coogan

Map of the Journey:
Tour of Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The 6 Month Itinerary:

Team Training in the UK: 25 – 31 January; fly to Addis Ababa
Ethiopia (Adama): 2 – 9 February
Kenya (Nairobi): 16 – 23 February
Uganda (Jinja): 2 – 9 March
Rwanda (Rulindo and Kigali): 13 – 21 March
Tanzania (Arusha and Moshi): 24 March – 3 April

[Half Time | Team Drinks Break: 7 – 13 April]

Tanzania (Dar es Salaam): 14 – 21 April
Malawi (Lilongwe): 27 April – 4 May
Zambia (Choma): 10 – 17 May
Botswana (Gaborone): 22 – 29 May
Namibia (Rehoboth): 3 – 9 June
South Africa (Port Elizabeth): 15 – 22 June
End of expedition in Cape Town: Friday 28 June

Our Football Boys Receive Motivational Talk from Ghanaian Pro

Tuesday’s training session featured a very special visitor. Good friend of United Through Sport Ghana and Swedish Premier League star, Thomas Boakye, came down to Presby Park to speak and offer inspiration to our boys. Thomas’ team, Östersunds FK gained promotion to the Swedish Premier League (known as the ‘Allsvenskan’) as Champions this season thanks to a dramatic winner from the 19 year old Ghanaian wing back.

Kumasi born Boakye is back in Ghana due to the the Swedish end of season hiatus. With temperatures in the north of Sweden around 45°C colder than the December weather in Ghana, Boakye admits he is happy to be back after a very successful first season as a professional:

“It’s great to be back, but I am not going to pretend I don’t miss playing already!”

The message Boakye conveyed to our teams centred on the importance of hard work, both at training and in school. Thomas left his family in the Ashanti region aged just 10 to move to the prestigious Right To Dream football academy based in Akosombo, at the bottom of Lake Volta in the East of Ghana. Boakye’s dedication on the training field and in the classroom earned him a scholarship at the prestigious Hartbury Sports College in Gloucester, Western England.

During his time in England, Boakye represented England at Under 18 and 19 levels whilst playing for Non-League Forest Green Rovers and attaining a first class education that would prepare him for success in case his career in football did not materialise.

The importance of education and attitude was something Boakye was keen to emphasise to our boys. The Ghana Under 20 star urged our teams to capitalise on the extra lessons offered by United Through Sport volunteers at the School of Excellence every day before giving their all at their evening training sessions to improve their skills and fitness.

Boakye answered questions from our players on subjects ranging from his football heroes, life as a professional footballer and his remaining career aspirations.

Whilst the 2013 African Cup of Nations due to be held in South Africa next month may have come a little too soon for a senior call up to the full Ghana squad, Boakye has set his sights on impressing in his second International Under 20 tournament when Algeria hosts the African U20 Championship in March.

Thomas and other young Ghanaian footballers only have to look at the example set by fellow Right To Dream graduate, Abdul Waris. The young striker top scored in the Swedish Premier League last season and earned himself a lucrative move to Spartak Moscow. Spartak featured in this years’ UEFA Champions League playing against 3 past winners of the tournament in Celtic, Barcelona and Benfica. Domestically, Waris has not escaped attention as he looks set to be named in the Black Stars AFCON squad after starting the most recent friendly win over the Cape Verde Islands.

Here at United Through Sport Ghana we would like to thank Thomas Boakye for taking the time to offer our players advice and inspiration. He insisted the players should always show maximum respect for the coaches who spend vast periods of their free time to train our teams without asking for anything in return. We hope that both Boakye and United Through Sport can build on successful first seasons.

The UTS Rugby Tournament in Ghana

On 12th December, volunteer rugby coach, Jack Beard, organised (and refereed) a tournament for the school teams he has been working with for the previous five weeks. The tournament featured four boys and four girls teams from around Nima, a poor suburb in the Greater Accra region known for its’ bustling street market.

Ghanaian athleticism lends itself to the 7’s game of Rugby, with the boys playing full contact and the girls playing a ‘three touch’ variation. Despite the hard and dusty ground the big hits were flying in!

Rugby is a growing sport in Ghana and it is commonplace that United Through Sport volunteer coaches are asked to represent for the Ghanaian National team in organised matches both domestically and internationally.

Present at the tournament was Salim ‘Amuzu’ Amuzuloh, the extremely charismatic Director of Rugby Development for Accra. Amuzu was unable to contain his delight at some of the flowing moves and technical tackling on show under the unforgiving African morning sun.

Wearing yellow strips were Unity School, an extremely well organised team that like to run straight at their opposition. They faced the physical and strong Abawana team in the first semi-final defeating the ‘All Whites’ in a pulsating encounter fit for a final. Unity eventually triumphing 15 points to 5.

The victorious girls team came from K-13 school, stealing Queens’ crown with an emphatic and incident packed 30-15 win that you would struggle to guess wasn’t full contact rules!

Despite individual brilliance, many thought the other finalists of the boys’ competition, Wilberforce, would be steamrolled by Unity after a slightly fortuitous progression in the semis. The Wilberforce team that stood between Unity and glory took an early lead, capitalising on a loose ball with a pacy counter attack to go in front. They could have extended this lead before half time only to be disallowed a second Try, the referee citing a knock on in the build-up as the reason for the decision. The Unity team used the half time break to regroup and came out strongly in the second half, eventually seizing the glory with a 15-10 victory in a great display of skilled, breathless and committed Rugby in difficult conditions.

The teams openly conversed with each other, enjoying the occasion the competition brought before starting their Christmas vacations, many pleading with Jack to organise holiday training workshops so they can continue practising outside of term time.

The passion in young people to be involved in Ghanaian Rugby continues to grow and United Through Sport plays a vital role in this emerging sport.

Ghana School of Excellence Almost Complete

We are delighted to report our School of Excellence now have the materials on site to complete the final three classrooms. The building project has come a long way in a short space of time thanks to the efforts of all of our volunteers and friends of United Through Sport.

The rapid development at the School owes a massive debt of gratitude to two of our summer volunteers, Hannah Nisbet and Tom Edwards. Through their fundraising efforts back in Australia we were able to purchase $700AUS worth of building supplies necessary to complete the structure.

Educating the boys after school and before their football training commences, form an integral part of our goals here at United Through Sport Ghana. We seek to promote and develop the values associated with sporting excellence through better educational attainment and participation. We aim to teach our three registered teams every afternoon and when possible, in the mornings too.

Our School of Excellence is located next to our pitch at Presby Park. Given the regular attendance of our players’ siblings, it is fantastic that we will have better, cleaner and larger learning environments. Importantly, the teachers and students will have some shelter when the rainy season dares to attempt to disrupt our lads’ learning experience.

2012 has been a remarkable year for our team. With the School of Excellence bringing a new dimension to our work and the boys finally being registered to play league games and catching the attention of local academies, we look forward to welcoming new and returning volunteers with United Through Sport to build on the great achievements of this calendar year.

Next up is the arduous task of painting and decorating our shiny new classrooms… maybe our boys can help with this!

Our Boys Play Marcel Desailly Boys

On Saturday 1st December the football boys from United Through Sport Ghana, locally know as FC Football Beyond Frontiers (FC FBF) were invited to play friendlies against the Under 17 and Under 13 teams of the Lizzy Sports Complex (LSC). The LSC academy was founded by Ghanaian born French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly.

The LSC pluck talented youth players from around Accra to play, train and improve at their excellent facilities including several 3G pitches and a full sized grass pitch with gym and swimming pool on site. To be asked to play at the LSC is a sign of the rapid development that our team has made since being registered in the league in February 2012.

Despite both games kicking off at 8am, it was already a scorching hot day in the Ghanaian capital. This did not have any impact on the pace or quality of the football on display. The Under 17’s started excellently sporting a new look 4-3-3 formation. The plan was to control the middle battleground and support the lone big front man, Figo, with support from the attacking wingers and breaking midfielders.

The intensity, discipline and hard work resulted in a dominant first period as our boys went into the half time break 1-0 up and having shocked and stifled the LSC academy side. We could even consider ourselves unlucky not being further up the score board, having missed a number of good opportunities and being denied a strong claim for a penalty.

The second half saw the home side come out strongly and were soon level after an unfortunate goalkeeping mistake, presenting the LSC forward with an easy opportunity to equalise. Our boys bounced back and were unlucky not to retake the lead with standout midfielder, Carlos crashing a long range effort against the crossbar after a fingertip save from the goalkeeper. The home side refreshed with a change of front line and soon found the back of the net twice in quick succession through incisive counter attacks and ruthless finishing.

The boys kept their heads up and rejuvenated with a number of substitutions. They pulled a goal back with a fiercely placed free kick from the visiting number 10, a left footed strike that Lionel Messi would have been proud of!

Despite late pressure the game ended 3-2 to LSC, a result that was hard to accept for our boys, whom controlled the game for all but a 20 minute spell when the home side ruthlessly scored all three of their goals.

The home side and their coaches were full of praise for the boys from Teshie, where United Through Sport Ghana are located, perhaps knowing they were fortunate to have defeated a team that showed excellent organisation and teamwork coupled with periods of abundant, inventive and attractive football.

The LSC adacemy have already shown an interest in several of our boys in this age group and with respect to the events of this game, it is easy to see why.

Although only a friendly this was an excellent way for our boys to reflect on a successful first season as a registered team.

With the foundation of our School of Excellence and some vital equipment and financial donations from volunteers and friends of United Through Sport Ghana it can be a stepping stone to greater things for a talented and dedicated group of boys.

Our Kids Visit the Lion Park

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 a 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!

The Journey Continues: Malawi, Zambia & Botswana

May has seen a busy month for our man Richard Bennett as he heads down through the African continent taking Rugby and important educational messages to thousands of kids.

Over the past few weeks the team of 6 have visited schools in Malawi (Mngwangwa Full Primary School) and Zambia (Nahumba Basic School), empowering local school teachers and coaches to work with the kids on an ongoing basis. Decent sports equipment has been left in each of the schools as well as link ups with UK based schools to continue the support after the team moved on.

Many pupils turned out in their hundreds to support their classmates in the rugby tournaments, with all children enjoying themselves and trying their hardest at the game; many cheering enthusiastically from the sidelines.

Head of P.E. at Nahumba Basic School in Zambia said the following about the visit:

“We have really enjoyed this week. Especially as the game doesn’t exist here yet – it has been a pleasure learning the game. The pupils are enjoying it very much and the ones who don’t play are eager to join in. We want to continue when you leave and go to other schools to teach them so we can have competitions. It would be my pleasure to spread rugby among the adults in Choma as well!”

The journey now sees the team head South into Botswana, with the final two destinations being Namibia and South Africa. Richard will spend time working alongside Nick Mould (Country Director) at our permanent United Through Sport base in South Africa (Port Elizabeth) where we currently work with over 20,000 kids. We are looking forward to welcoming the team and we are sure a long overdue haircut will be in order!

Facilities Boost for School of Excellence

There have been some exciting new developments at the Junior School of Excellence (JSE); the sports facilities are looking great! The children are very excited to start playing on their upgraded facilities, which will do wonders for their skills development. The upgrade of the facilities was sponsored by terres des homes Germany through the, ‘A Chance To Play Programme’ as part of their on-going support of United Through Sport’s mission to bring the opportunity of playing structured sports activities to every child in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The all round facility upgrade included building a new netball court, two cricket nets, rugby and football posts, a spectator stand for up to 70 people and purchasing an industrial lawn mower and line marking machine to allow the school to maintain the rugby and football fields.

The new facilities have now allowed the School to enter into the local Super 12 competition where they will be the only township school competing. This was previously not possible as they were unable to host home matches against top (former model c) schools. The children are all very excited at the thought of hosting multi-racial schools and playing against “abelungu” (white people) at home, as this will be a first amongst the township schools of the area.

These new facilities have been a great boost for the school and fantastic starting point, the next goal is to raise funds to extend the netball court to a tennis court and improve the hockey playing surface.

“I am so excited to play our first match at home, it will be the first time my dad can come and watch me play, and he will sit in the stands to watch me, like I am a professional!” – Zizipho Ndongeni, 12 yrs old, grade 7

Over 8500 Children Enjoy Sports

The Mass Participation Programme (MPP) has continued to reach new heights in the first half of the year; reaching 43 schools and a total of 8600 kids with a total of 12 sessions per child in sports and life skills activities, totalling 103,200 sessions!

The MPP not only closes the sports gap (as physical education is no longer offered by teachers in these schools), but our life skills coaches bridge the generation gap between parent and child in some of these children’s lives. The fact that we have young energetic staff hailing from the same communities makes it easy for the children to approach them and open up about personal matters they are not completely comfortable talking to teachers about.

Having the international volunteers involved in this programme is a great advantage as the children love to engage with them and learn about their different cultures and backgrounds. Mixing with international coaches makes the children highly motivated and broadens their horizons to the wider world beyond the township.

“As this is our longest running program, it is heart warming to know that we still continue to bring joy and excitement to thousands of children in the communities of Nelson Mandela Bay and surrounding areas while still managing to impart key life skills and educational messages!” – Hannah Clare, General Manager, United Through Sport.

UTS visits schools in Ethiopia and Kenya

For the last month a team has been heading down through Europe and into Africa to deliver Rugby and other sports sessions as a platform to improve health, education and build life skills in young people.

Richard Bennett, leading the team gives us his update:
Our first school visit was set for Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and, to get there, the team drove 10,000km in 32 days, overland from the UK, through Europe and North Africa. After a day spent at local government school, Kokebetsibah, arranged by partner NGO, Plan UK, we moved to Adama where we’d be based for the week, coaching pupils and staff at Nafyad School and Adama No. 2 Elementary.

Rugby is not a known sport in Ethiopia, so we caused quite an interest… Maximising Nafyad’s timetabled PE lessons, we saw over 600 pupils a day, got the staff playing touch rugby and finished the week with a multi-year group tournament, with local staff refereeing some of the matches. It came as no surprise when Ethiopian TV journalists arrived with their camera to report on the action, featuring our visit that night on the news!

Results from the visit:
Number of pupils coached – 1240
Amount of pupils participating in 3 or more sessions – 44%
Male : Female – 60 : 40
Number of buddy coaches* – 7
Number of local staff empowered – 2

*Buddy coach = local member of staff supporting our coaches during a rugby session.

Abraham Legese, P.E. Teacher, Nafyad School said the following:
“We are very happy because having United Through Sport and Bhubesi Pride here is very lovely for us. It is important that all players are equal. Through learning about the values of rugby, people begin to respect each other, and there is a sense of unity and community in the school. The children must develop good behaviour and be sociable to each other”
Moving on to Kenya.

To reach our next partner school involved a long drive south to Nairobi in Kenya: Shadrack Kimalel, on the edge of the Kibera slum. A severely underprivileged community, we saw nothing but talent and enthusiasm for a game perfect for the pupils here, displaying natural ability and athleticism. Adding further value to our work at Shadrack, our coaching team was joined by students from our host school for the week, Brookhouse School, who autonomously delivered fantastic sessions.

Results from the visit:
Number of pupils coached – 450
Amount of pupils participating in 3 or more sessions – 60%
Male : Female – 60 : 40
Number of buddy coaches – 3
Number of local staff empowered – 1 (5 Brookhouse students develop coaching skills)

Thanks to all who are involved with this exciting project and we look forward to updating you again soon.