Over the last 8 years United Through Sport Caribbean volunteers and staff have competed in a number of domestic and international tournaments to boost competition and add international flavour to proceedings. United Through Sport RFC aka ‘The UTeS’ has now been formed into a permanent domestic rugby club .
UTeS was created by United Through Sport to improve rugby involvement and to increase game time in the area. This is beneficial to both our team and the opposition such as Rouges and Reela as well as creating a great rapport between the coaches and players. Every weekend UTeS play in 7’s tournaments, these are hosted by a different team each week. The tournaments are competitive and rewarding to each participant.
We have open weekly training sessions to introduce and encourage new persons to come and get involved in rugby. This is coached by Evan Rae the UTS coordinator. We focus on different aims each session to ensure we improve and better ourselves as a team before the next game and to develop rugby and social skills.
After each training session or tournament the UTeS host team building activities involving all teams and supporters, this is a great way to get to know teammates outside of rugby which improves communication on the pitch, as well as providing positive role models for the up and coming St Lucian rugby players.
UTeS RFC has its own Instagram page which is used to display player profiles with key information about each player on the team. We also post highlights from training and game day so that we can look back and analyse our progress and our international supporters can stay up to date with UTeS progress.
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.
ELEVEN children who are participating in United Through Sport South Africa’s programmes in Nelson Mandela Bay have been selected to represent their province (states) in either rugby or hockey.
“We are exceptionally proud of these young sport stars who always give their best on the field. Nurturing talent from a young age is crucial for the development of the children and we pride ourselves in unlocking sporting opportunities for the talented children who participate in our programmes,” said United Through Sport South Africa Director Nick Mould.
Currently 140 children across Nelson Mandela Bay participate in United Through Sport’s Junior School of Excellence (JSE) programme. The programme offers an additional two hours of teaching and coaching every day after school – providing extra academic support in Maths and English, further sports coaching, life skills classes and personal mentoring. Deserving children from the JSE are then selected for our Senior School of Excellence Programme (SSE), for placement at some of the top participating high schools in Nelson Mandela Bay.
At Astra Primary School three boys were selected for the EP Hockey Under-13 team: Caylan Fouché (C team), Trent Gunn (B team) and Coby Jonas (C team). In addition, Caleb Gaseba – also from Astra Primary School – was selected for the EP Hockey Under-14 A team. In the Under-14 B team Sachin Padayachee was selected to represent his school, Alexander Road High School.
Claredon Park pupil Wayvin Meyer made the EP Hockey Under-13 A team, while fellow school mate Keenan Martin had been selected for the final round of the EP Rugby Trials which will be held in Bloemfontein later this month, where the A and B teams are selected.
At St. George’s Primary School Keanu van Niekerk made the EP Hockey Under 13-B team and Clireez Brugh made the EP Hockey Under-13 B team.
In the United Through Sport’s Senior School of Excellence Programme, Kiara Meyer from Alexander Road High School made the Hockey Under 18-A team, as well as Kyra Jurgens from Pearson High School.
United Through Sport Caribbean were able to provide 25 full uniforms for the St. Lucia National Men team and 15 for the Ladies side. The kits were bought as part as UTS Caribbean’s objective to raise the standard and profile of the St. Lucia’s National Rugby Teams.
In-country director Joël Martin:
We are delighted to be able to provide both teams with pro-playing kits and hope it is a design the players will be proud to wear. We wanted to give the young players within our programme something to aspire towards; the greater the National Team is, the greater the motivation to get there.
Uniforms will be worn for all National fixtures including oncoming Rugby America North tournaments.
The design of the kit pays tribute to the St. Lucian Flag with it’s cyan to epitomise the sky, and surrounding Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Yellow to symbolise the sunshine and prosperity, and triangles representing the island’s iconic Gros and Petit pitons. The background is made up of Carib tribal patterns as an homage to the original settlers to the island. The emblem of the SLRFU contains the Zandoli lizard which is endemic to the region and traditionally a sign of ‘good spirits’.
St. Lucia shirts and shorts are available to buy in the UK with proceeds going to back into UTS grassroots projects in St. Lucia, follow link to order yours: https://www.scimitarclubs.com/product-category/st-lucia-rugby
A true product of the United Through Sport St. Lucia project. Ervin Joseph’s association with the organisation came when he got his first taste of competitive rugby in the United Through Sport Youth Rugby Tournament in 2011, representing his hometown of Laborie.
Consequently, a UTS community rugby programme was set up in Laborie the following year. Ervin and his identical twin brother Elvin’s attendance, aptitude and attitude within the sessions lead them to immediate success in the sport, highlights included: winning 2012’s edition of the UTS Youth Tournament with the Laborie team, representing the South of St. Lucia in our North vs South series that same year, captaining the St. Lucia U19’s in Trinidad 2013 and gaining their first senior caps the following year.
Ervin’s development off the pitch was also staggering, as aspiring coaches he and his brother took up positions with United Through Sport. As a graduate of the UTS projects Ervin is the perfect role model to deliver our programmes to the next generation, while collecting a variety of coaching badges; he has ran numerous rugby programmes across the island, travelled with a St. Lucian youth team to the UK as a coach for an international rugby tournament and even established his own senior rugby team.
The 2016/17 season has been his best yet; starring for St. Lucia National Rugby Team in matches against Rugby Club Diamant Martinique and SVG Rugby Union while leading his previous domestic club VBCC Stingers and current club Rouges RFC to a perfect record of 28 games- 28 wins, leaving voters with no choice as to who should be named the St. Lucia Rugby Football Union’s player of the year.
On receipt of the award Ervin’s focus inspiring others to follow is lead:
“I’m extremely proud to have won this award, this year I’ve been working harder then before. I’ve been surrounded by people that have encouraged me in getting better. It just shows me that with hard work miracles do happened. I say thanks to my team mates and as their captain, i hope leading by example will encourage them on being better as individuals. Right now rugby is a growing sport you never know how far one can reach.”
Most Sundays are rather laid back at UTS Argentina, but not this one. Sunday 14th August 2016 marked a very special day for us and our visitors. United Though Sport joined forces with City of London Freemen’s School from Ashtead in Surrey (UK), to host a sports day event for local children from our grassroots projects. With the help of over 50 young, enthusiastic, vibrant coaches, we were able to show our local kids new and exciting ways to train, learn and play. Sessions consisted of a mixture of skill drills and strategic training but most of all; an emphasis on fun! The event was an excellent chance for cultural exchange, most of our children having never met ‘Brits’ before and our visitors working with Argentinean children for the first time, it was a great opportunity to meet, play and speak with so many people of different backgrounds and experiences.
The day started at 9:30am. After arrivals and introductions, we split into smaller groups for brief ice-breaker activities. Our visiting coaches were students of 16-18 years old The majority of them had started playing rugby and hockey around the ages of 8-10 years, similar ages to our kids at the park.
The Freemen’s coaches set up a range of innovative drills focusing on: technique, speed, power, strategic plays and intuition. New training methods and techniques for our local players and coaches to learn from and reuse.
To end the day, our visitors were introduced to a taste of Buenos Aires culture! As UTS Argentina’s 8-man squad of young stars took on waves of 8-man Freemen’s teams in a Football tournament before a traditional Argentinian barbecue!
United Through Sport would like to once again thank London Freemen’s School and its students for taking the time to join us to make the experience so enjoyable and successful; Botines Solidarios for provision of equipment and organisation of the event; Pareyra Park for use of the grounds and all the children and their families for coming out on Sunday morning to participate and support the event.
Ryan Jones, Rugby Programme Coordinator, gives us a quick run down of what we have been up to in Tanzania:
“Firstly, before I write anything else I have to get it out of my system, Tanzania is massive!! It’s a massive country, with massive mountains, scenery, culture and will always have a ‘massive’ long-lasting place in my heart.
I have seen and experienced so much within our time in Tanzania that it’s very difficult to put into words! The expedition team crossed into Tanzania with long-term supporter and director of Lloyd Morgan Productions, Lloyd Morgan.
The first beautiful scene to meet us was Lake Manyara and its brilliant baboons! As always, I’m completely honoured to be a team member, that feeling of privilege has only been enhanced by my time in Tanzania.
Unique to Tanzania, our work spread into three separate locations instead of one per country. First up was Arusha: We were fortunate enough to be accommodated at the lovely Braeburn School and I placed myself alongside JP and Ben for our week’s worth of uniting, empowering and inspiring through rugby at Arusha Primary.
The weather was quite an issue, but utilising our trademark adaptability and sponteneouty, we successfully put together a fantastic rugby week which also included meeting ‘Jonny Mike’ – the 80-year old giant tortoise and Arusha Primary mascot – the stunning TGT rugby pitch as well as Jon, Ben and myself having the pleasure of spending an evening coaching young Arushans full contact rugby!
The second Tanzanian location to be visited was the town of Moshi, where we had the pleasure of staying at the Stella Maris hotel (a non-profit organisation that funds an AIDS victims orphanage) – a mostly clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro each day and the only thing that could possibly top those two amazing things: working with Moshi street children from the wonderful Mkombozi agency! This is a charity I fully intend to support on my return to the UK.
I’m a pretty down-to-earth guy but for three days I think I was in the most bizarre form of paradise! To be a volunteer in Africa is to follow in the footsteps of many, many remarkable people. However, to experience elation that is unique to you and the homeless/deprived children you are selflessly helping, in a way that’s different to everybody else, is a phenomenal feeling. A feeling that I will always treasure, and I’m eternally grateful to United Through Sport for this huge opportunity for self discovery and one of the best weeks of my life!
We had a well earned week-off from project work after visiting the museums and crocodile farms of the former slave port, Bagamoyo. Most of the team headed to Zanzibar to rest a bit after 10 weeks on the road!
The team’s last stop in Tanzania is Dar es Salaam where we first stayed at the beach side campsite Mikadi, travelling to Dar by Tuk-Tuk and ferry each day. Right now, Ben and I are so fortunate to be staying in our new ‘home’ with ex-Tanzanian rugby international, JT, and his lovely wife Lynn. (Thank you so much for your hospitality, please look me up on your next UK visit!)
Mike, Jon and I are working with Mapambano Primary School, such an organised institution, heroically led by Head Teacher Idda Uisso!
If you thought that it might take us a while to get back into the swing you could not be more wrong! With Idda’s enthusiasm, the children’s unlimited appreciation, G4S’ superb input and support in coaching refreshments and resources, a daily rendition of the Tanzanian National Anthem – closely followed by the song “welcome teachers, Mr Richard we love you” – Mapambano reached a United Through Sport first, by achieving a Level 4 Assessment Award Certificate!
Dar es Salaam has the potential to be a new personal best for us! Thank you as always for your support and well wishes!
See you all in Malawi.”
Check out a video of our work in Tanzania.
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!”
Juan Pablo Andrade
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
Check These Out
Our Latest Updates
- Hartland and Clovelly AFC support United Through SportJuly 18, 2019 - 7:32 pm
- Lindiwe Wins International Award to Get Girls MovingJune 24, 2019 - 7:34 am
- United Through Sport Mauritius and St. Esprit College PartnershipAugust 9, 2023 - 2:10 pm
- Netball a new sport in MauritiusAugust 7, 2023 - 3:25 pm
- Mauritius Cycling Federation – New partnership potentialAugust 2, 2023 - 4:30 pm
- Sport and Recreation Youth ProgrammeJuly 26, 2023 - 12:00 pm
- Our work with Liverpool FC academyJuly 24, 2023 - 3:00 pm
80 Stokes Croft
Charity Number: 1102107