Cara is one of our Youth Rising Programme participants who has recently received a scholarship to play football at Tennessee Wesleyan University in the United States. She has always had a dream to play overseas and has worked hard to achieve her goals!
From a young age, Cara has been passionate about playing football and has pursued her passion. Growing up, there weren’t many girls teams for her to join but she didn’t let that dissuade her and so she joined the boy’s teams. As she got older, more options opened up for her and she now plays for the semi-professional South African Women’s League.
Receiving a scholarship to play overseas means that she is one step closer to achieving her goal of becoming a professional football player. While this is great news, unfortunately, the scholarship does not cover all of the costs and we need help from United Through Sport supporters to cover the additional costs. Please donate to help Cara on her way to playing for a university team in the United States!
While Cara prepares to study and play overseas she is still actively involved in the United Through Sport Youth Rising Programme, receiving one-on-one mentorship and coaching younger football players from her area. She is focused on preparing herself to study and play overseas. We are excited to continue to support her on her pathway to success and your support will get her one step closer to reaching her goal!
The lives of 14 South African football players have changed forever, after they jetted off on a plane to the United Kingdom.
On September 23, 2019 the Port Elizabeth boys went on their first international trip to the UK where they were hosted by Dulwich College in South London as part of week-and-a-half sporting and cultural exchange, made possible by United Through Sport and partners.
The boys visited the Arsenal Football Academy and went on a tour of the Emirates Stadium in London, as well as attended a Premium League football match between Crystal Palace FC and Norwich City.
However, the boys did not only sight-see during their time in the UK, they were also afforded the incredible opportunity to play football against top local professional academy teams and schools in London.
In addition to playing a friendly match against the Arsenal Academy’s U/12 and U/13 teams, the boys also played against Crystal Palace Academy and their host school, Dulwich College.
“There were school and club scouts watching the boys, keen to offer an opportunity of a scholarship to players that stood out. Aside from the football taking place, the boys participated in an academic and cultural exchange programme designed to broaden their horizons, sensitise them to cultural similarities and differences, teach them about career opportunities and foster long lasting exchange relationships with their UK counterparts,”
United Through Sport Director Nick Mould.
The football team who travelled to the UK was made up of U/12 and U/13 boys from United Through Sport’s programmes based in the disadvantaged areas of Port Elizabeth, as well as boys playing club football at Calledonian Football Club in the city.
The boys were hosted by families from Dulwich College in South London and attended school and trained with their football players throughout the week. Dulwich College is an academically selective independent school for boys based in London, which recently celebrated its 400th anniversary.
The local run football club Hartland and Clovelly AFC have provided a donation of £1220 for United Through Sport in memory of their former member, Martin Heard, who tragically died in 2014.
Hartland and Clovelly AFC runs 3 teams and have been an intrinsic part of local village life for many generations. Every other year the football club organise a fundraising day in memory of their dear friend, Marty. This year they have decided to donate a share of the proceeds to United Through Sport to reflect the importance they believe sport and community were to him. The objective of the event was not just about raising money, but to bring the local community together and make a positive impact from such a terrible tragedy.
The event took place on a farm in Hartland and was a great success. It started of with an afternoon of family fun with a sport emphasis. This included a large amount of activities, such as football and boxing coaching, badminton and rope swings. Moreover, they organised a ticketed event in the evening “Party for Marty” which consisted of a live band, bar and hog roast.
We would like to thank Hartland and Clovelly AFC and their team of helpers and supporters for their contribution, it will be vital across our global projects.
6 months ago I left my home country of England and travelled by cargo boat across the Atlantic to start a new life in Buenos Aires. Having worked in the city of London, I had seen first hand the effects of corporate manipulation and greed, and in all honesty it had turned me off the idea of pursuing a career in such an industry. It was time for a change, and as my opening sentence suggests, a radical one at that.
The only commitment I had on leaving was a 3 month volunteering program for a charity called United Through Sport. I would be working in a program that aimed to teach and help children develop skills in sport, both in schools and out. As a great sport lover, and with a passion for English rugby union as bright as any others, I thought such a program would be the perfect start.
Unfortunately on entering the country, my grasp of the Spanish language started and ended with the ability to poorly pronounce the words hola and gracias. This coupled with my first encounter with the hostels day cleaner Chuni (whose grasp of the English language only equaled that of my Spanish) made me realise this was going to be an experience unlike any I had had before.
It became clear, even just through our volunteering induction, that the name United Through Sport simply does not do justice to the full breadth and scope of the charities reach. Whilst its founding principle was that through its use, sport could tackle underlying problems and unite communities through better social cohesion, it appears this principle is now only one of many. With programs now running in education, healthcare, construction and childcare it has taken on a much larger role, and is seemingly becoming more a community builder rather than just a supporter.
What was explained to us, and what became apparent to me is that the beauty of a volunteering based charity is that it acts as a cultural exchange. It is not only that the volunteers are able to help the lives of children and adults through using their experience, but also the reverse. As a volunteer you get to learn and eventually understand the different cultural realities and nuances that are often so alien to our own. Perhaps the most obvious of these being the concept of Argentinian time which can be frustrating when you first arrive.
The sports education program I was part of had me working in a school alongside a physical education teacher, in order to help with classes and contribute any ideas I thought might benefit the students. I was based at a school called Buen Consejo, where I taught and got to know 6 classes of around 20 students ranging from the age of 6 to 14 years. From designing your own games to focusing on a specific skill based drills, there really is great scope to use the knowledge you have and share it with the children
The vast majority of the children are from the shanty Villa 21 -24. This shanty is one of 6 in Buenos Aires and is the home to around 60,000 people. Needless to say living conditions and life prospects for those within the shanty are considerably diminished compared to the lives of the volunteers who come through the program. Things we take for granted often don’t exist there, and the initial shock you experience when you enter is one you can only experience first hand. More on this later.
At school the most notable thing that you first experience is how affectionate the children are. You are inundated with hugs and smiles and straight away are taught their unique way of greeting. Hola profe (meaning hello professor), and a small hand-clap quickly followed by a quick fist bump indicate that you are not only welcome but they are happy to see you. I found this act fairly overwhelming as not only had they straight away welcomed me to their group, but through such a small gesture they had made me feel part of it.
At break times you can sit and talk to the children, making the learning curve for someone with no Spanish very steep even if very difficult. Children here speak extremely fast and this along with this the fact that they are often not only from Argentina, but also Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile, means that understanding different accents also becomes part of the problem!
Often during break a child would finish with their juice box and throw it on the floor indicating the start of a quick pick up football game for those in the surrounding area. With so many children in the playground it meant that often you could see 20 juice boxes being hurled around followed eagerly by different groups of boys, all presumably imagining they were the next Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona.
I spent three months helping to teach football, basketball, handball, volleyball, and rugby. I was able to use and teach some of the skills I had been taught both at school and university, and it was an absolute pleasure to do so. I was also able to give the teacher a couple of useful drills and games he could use in the future. As a result of volunteering for an extended period of time I was able to form a strong friendship with said teacher. This was an added bonus, which certainly enhanced the whole experience.
As with all volunteering programs it really is what you put in you get out. I had some truly special relationships with the children because of both parties caring and wanting to take an interest. Whether it was teaching a few new English words at break times, or how to spin a rugby ball during class, the effects of a volunteering presence was certainly evident. The enthusiasm you show is automatically seen in the reaction of those you show it towards. There seems to be a certain intangible effect that can be quite profound even through such small gestures. Both child and volunteer can walk away greatly satisfied from the encounter they had just shared.
Having finished my initial program I was offered the opportunity to stay on with the charity as a coordinator. In brief this role essentially means helping new volunteers settle into their programs and being on hand to help them as and when is necessary.
I now help coordinate a childcare program, which has been built inside a soup kitchen in the heart Villa 21 -24. Comedor Evita feeds up to 300 families everyday and is run and maintained by dedicated local staff who realise the fundamental need for such a facility. Unlike the extensive (even if criticized) social welfare program found in the UK, Argentina offers very little in comparison.
Those in the shanty find themselves at an automatic disadvantage. Just by the mere fact of where they live they are often unemployable outside of their area code and have less access to good quality education and ultimately life. It is the work of places like Comedor Evita that allow many of those living in the shanty at least a few of our most basic human needs.
The childcare program is a relatively new initiative that gives children a safe and positive environment in which to learn and interact with each other. It allows parents who need to go to work a place to leave their children and also gives them the peace of mind that their child will be safe. During their time at the soup kitchen the children will also be fed, in some cases this being the only meal they receive that day.
Much like the school the children are always happy to meet new volunteers. Some of these children are from abusive homes, some are neglected due to their parents being reliant on either drugs or alcohol, and some are just very poor with no other place to go. Regardless, there is a great community feel between everyone involved, and gratitude shown towards all those who help however small. For example the Argentine practice of Mate drinking is often shared, which is one example of the cultural exchange mentioned earlier.
During my time at Comedor I have made strong relationships with both the children and the staff. Nelly who runs the soup kitchen is a true inspiration. Not only does she coordinate the arduous task of feeding 300 families a day, she also goes out of her way to help both the volunteers and anyone else who requests it. She does so with a smile on her face and an open heart, and as a result she is well known and well loved within the community, and rightly so.
I learn Spanish with the children through writing stories with them, or pointing at things of interest and asking what it means. My favourite pastime is standing at the fence, looking out at the traffic with a couple of them and carrying out said practice. You can’t get away with anything with children, who are so quick to pick up on mistakes however small. Due to my gringo accent and untrained ear, they either innocently laugh at you, or show their disappointment that you have simply not grasped at all what they are saying with an affectionate slap to the face. They have a unique way to make you feel very foolish when for example using the preterit tense when the imperfect was preferable. However it is all done with smiles and laughter and in all honesty I am very grateful for their help.
Comedor is an expanding project with great potential. Since I have worked there I have seen the volunteers renovate multiple rooms, including the childcare area. The rundown fence outside has been given a new lick of paint making a considerable difference to its outside appearance, and certainly making it more welcoming.
The concreted area outside has been dug up and re laid, so what once was an uneven and fairly dangerous structure is now a flat new surface for the children to play. Soon a new higher fence will be installed to prevent balls flying over into traffic meaning more outside sports and less headaches for volunteers. There are also plans for further expansion upstairs, to make a room for classes and other activities to be held for those who wish to attend.
Ultimately the goal of United Through Sport is to use the soup kitchen as a foundation to create a community center that not only gives a place for people to come but also opportunities they otherwise would not have had. Although it is in its infancy, it is certainly on the right track and it really is excellent to see the progress that is being made.
Pause for thought
Since arriving in Buenos Aires the British pound has almost doubled in strength against the Argentine peso. The effects of such a crumbling economy are startling when you compare the difference it makes to a volunteer and a resident of Villa 21 -24.
While as volunteers we can make light and chatter about the fact that we can now enjoy the finest cut of bife de lomo coupled with a bottle of red wine from Mendoza for the equivalent of 15 US dollars. Such musings are not even contemplated by those in the shanty. The effects of a failing economy are seen first and foremost in the poorest areas and it is no wonder that even long term solutions to the structural poverty that persists are hard to picture.
The contrast is so vast between those who have and those who don’t have, that I would postulate that it would be impossible for even the most cynical and most closed minded of westerners who visit, not to have their eyes opened to what lies on the other side of the fence. For me it has been the most humbling experience of my life, and as selfish as it may be, I take great pride that I am now part of a work in progress solution, that aims to make the lives of those involved at least a little better.
I must admit that I was and have been a skeptic when it comes to charities, especially having seen first hand some of the corruption that happens within large organisations. However through the experiences I have had and the people I have worked for this opinion has certainly changed. There is a great passion from the team here to make a difference and I am truly glad to be a part of it.
United Through Sport ran simultaneous netball and multi sports camps over the school holidays this summer providing childcare and sporting expertise for underprivileged families in St. Lucia.
Our girls netball camp was run on the Vigie sports complex with girls from Egrets, Bocage, Soufriere and St. Lucia U14s netball clubs, who had been attending our after school projects in the year. The girls were treated to a range of games, exercises and drills from our UK volunteer coaches and programme coordinator Sarah Mosley.
The La Clery summer camp was a chance for children to sample a range of different sports including; Football, Basketball, Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, Athletics and Swimming. Attended by boys and girls from the La Clery community, Pioneers FC and our ongoing after school projects in Vide Boutielle, Marchand and Corinth, children were encouraged to find the sports they most enjoyed, and linked to our partner clubs to encourage adherence to the game.
The main focus of our camps were fun and inclusivity; Camps ran 4 days a week, food, transport, swimming lessons and one-on-one supervision was provided for those that needed it and our large volunteer numbers meant ability levels and age groups could be split during session. Meaning children from all backgrounds social backgrounds, age, ability and health got the opportunity to attend. United Through Sport was also able to donate playing shirts, boots and other sports equipment for camp attendees.
Highlights of the summer included; Fortnightly beach days and swimming lessons at Vigie beach, fun day on Splash island with Daren Sammy and the St. Lucia Stars cricket team, winners dinner at Coco Palms Hotel and our National youth Netball tournament.
Earlier in February, our senior team and their coaches travelled to Benin for the J2A U’17 tournament in Cotonou. The team and their coaches travelled by bus to from Ghana, through Togo and finally into Benin. It was an extremely long journey of over nine hours each way due to border crossing delays but after the long journey and a good night’s rest the boys were ready for their first day of matches.
The boys won both of their group stage matches on the first day which put them in a good standing for the final group stage match the following day – the United Through Sport team won the match with ease which sent them straight into the semi-final later that day. The semi-final posed more of a challenge for our boys as they were unable to reach more than 1-1 at full time; after extra time and no change to the score they began a penalty shoot-out. The match finished on 5-4 to United Through Sport after the penalty shoot-out, securing a place in Sunday’s final at Benin’s national stadium.
The boys were extremely focused in preparation for the final and relished the sense of occasion that playing at the National stadium brought with it. The game started off well and the United Through Sport team had some fantastic opportunities but unfortunately it just wasn’t their day. The opposition team, Kozaf, took the lead at the end of the first half; our boys gave it everything but luck just wasn’t on their side on the day – they ended the match defeated 1-0 but the Burkina Faso side. Although the boys didn’t win, they had some incredible support and comments from spectators, fellow teams and coaches. They did everybody proud with their performance and effort throughout the tournament and left Benin with their heads still held high.
On arrival back at the academy house, they were treated to a hero’s welcome from the rest of the academy boys – with singing, dancing, chants, hugs, handshakes and prayers of thanks. Spirits were extremely high and everyone was incredibly proud of them and their achievements.
The Ghana Academy boys recently enjoyed a weekend trip to Sogakope in Ghana’s Volta Region to play the West African Football Academy, which up until recently was known as Feyenoord Football Academy – an incredibly good and well known Academy in Ghana. For this meeting our U13 and U17 squad’s represented United Through Sport in Ghana and did incredibly well.
The U’13s started brightly with some excellent pressure on the Feyenoord defence. As the game continued, more pressure from striker Wisdom Afrani led to a mistake at the back and he capitalised by rounding the keeper before slotting the ball away for a 1-0 lead. The boys were playing really well and with the pace from Sadiq Bawa threatening down wings led to the second goal, a great run by the winger with a calm finish in the bottom corner!
The second half started slowly in the 40 degree heat, a good move from Feyenoord ended in a good finish to half the lead United Through Sport had at half time. A few injuries forced a couple of substitutes which saw some of the younger development squad (U’11/U’12) boys make their first appearances for United Through Sport. With around ten minutes left a fantastic goal was scored by the United Through Sport side clinching a third goal. The ball was won in the centre of the pitch and a great move sweeping out to the right wing and quick low cross was put away by the goal scoring midfielder Charles McCarthy!
A great win for the boys against very tough opponents.
The U’17s started well holding on to the ball and playing some nice football. Unfortunately their good play didn’t lead to us taking the lead. Feyenoord hit us on the break and a nice finish put them 1-0 up. Not long after the opening goal we equalised with a very powerful finish from Ibrahim Sulley from a tight angle.
The second half was a close battle with neither team really taking the initiative, the midfield was being controlled by Joseph Amoah – who recently just returned from a training tour in the UK with St Mirren and Portsmouth – the game was ticking by and unfortunately Feyenoord hit us on the break and scored a second goal, after an initial good save from Amadu Ibrahim.
A close game, but in the end we fell just short, despite controlling the game!
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