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Township Astro-Turf Launched On Mandela Day

For United Through Sport, July 18th was not only a celebration for Mandela Day and receiving sports equipment, but also the celebration and official launch of a 1200m₂ 4G mini astro-turf at Astra Primary School, one of the Junior School of Excellence centers; a first facility of its kind in the townships of Nelson Mandela Bay. The multi-purpose astro-turf was funded by the local e’Zethu Development Trust, Empower and the Sedbergh School in the UK, through the Bhubesi Pride Foundation. Astra Primary serves as a hub in the Northern Areas, meaning that the turf will be available for structured use by the community at large primarily for Hockey and Soccer training.

By donating sports equipment, the contributors were also securing a spot to show off their football skills in friendly games played on the new turf. The first game saw the heads of the Business Chamber and UTS going head to head against the Astra boys in a very entertaining 15 minutes. Needless to say, the young blood took charge in their territory and showed the businessmen who’s boss on the turf!

With all these festivities amalgamated on Mandela Day, it was only fitting that the event was dignified by the presence of Executive Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay and President of the South African Football Association (SAFA), Dr Danny Jordaan. Other dignitaries included the CEOS and Directors of the businesses represented in the Business Chamber, as well as representatives from the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the headmasters of our Senior School of Excellence partner schools. In a warm speech, the honourable Mayor showed appreciation for the work that United Through Sport does to uplift and develop the youth that come from such disadvantaged communities in the Bay, giving these youngsters a much brighter hope for their future.

Mandela Day 2016 was a very special day for United Through Sport, highlighting the importance of concrete partnerships to pursue common goals. It was indeed very powerful to come together with the above mentioned institutions and organisations, holding hands in promoting youth development through sport.

“Facilities like this one and partnerships like these are the key to long term sustainable development. We are proud to support this initiative and look forward to working with United Through Sport and the other key partners in the future”.
Dr Danny Jordaan, Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor.

The World’s Strongest Marathon – Ross Edgley

When the clock strikes midnight on the 22nd of January I (Ross Edgley) will step foot on Silverstone race circuit ― with whey protein shake in hand ― and attempt to pull a 1,400kg MINI Countryman 26.2 miles in an event the media is calling, “The World’s Strongest Marathon”. Why? The short answer is to raise money and awareness for United Through Sport.

But the actual answer perhaps needs more elaboration on. Which is why I’ve put pen to paper to write this Blog post that begins with a brief back-story.

It was morning, Aug. 1, 2002, on the sun-bleached African plains of Namibia.

I’m 21 and have been tasked with documenting the life of the San Bushmen. A hunter-gatherer civilization who were no doubt wondering what the strange Englishmen was doing in their village. If I’m honest I don’t blame them either. I was completely out of my depth.

That’s because bright eyed and straight out of university I’d become this odd writer-athlete hybrid that had developed a reputation for accepting even the weirdest of assignments. Which is why I find myself emerging from a mud hut wearing nothing but a smile, homemade flip-flops and a traditional ‘tribal thong’ that barely covers my modesty.

Eager to earn their acceptance it worked. Never before had my bare buttocks received such rapturous applause as I was invited to sit among the men of the tribe.

However my victory was short lived. Handicapped by the language barrier it seemed once the novelty of my semi-displayed cheeks had worn off there was very little else to do. Without any means of communicating I had no way of developing rapport with my hosts.

Needless to say I wasn’t doing a great job as a writer or a San Bushmen.

What seemed like hours of silence passed until eventually I was saved by a moment of inspiration. I remembered the immortal words of Sebastian Coe ― former Olympic Gold Medallist ― that were engraved on a giant plaque in my University library.

“Sport is a universal language; building more bridges between people than anything else”

Politely excusing myself from the group I returned to the hut. Frantically searched for the semi-inflated football I’d kept in my luggage. Then returned to nervously present it to the tribe. Not a word was spoken. It didn’t need to be. We marked out some goals, picked teams and an impromptu match ensued.

Mr. Coe was right. For the rest of the week ― and for the rest of the life ― when in doubt I whipped out a ball, marked out a pitch and played sport. It’s never failed me. In the words of the Olympic Games founder Pierre Baron de Coubertin “The Olympic Spirit is neither the property of one race nor of one age.”

But it was experiences like this that taught me everyone loved sport. Everyone loved playing it. Everyone loved watching it. Everyone understood the value of it. Sport is an unwritten language understood by all.

Which is why I truly believe the work of United Through Sport is of profound importance! Which (coming back to the initial reason for this article) is why I decided to:

  1. Create a Virgin Money Fundraising Page
  2. Plan an insane stunt to capture people’s attention
  3. Use my small presence in the media to promote it

If at the end of the above ‘to do list’ myself and THE PROTEIN WORKS™ raise enough money and awareness for charity I will consider every blister, rope burn and painful step taken not in vain.

The sheer scale of the World’s Strongest Marathon has been captured in the below infographic by Watches of Wales Head Graphic Designer Shaun Preece:

World's Strongest Marathon - Infographic

Global Gathering on River Thames Boat

Last night saw the coming together of nations as United Through Sport threw its annual reunion party. Past volunteers and members of the United Through Sport family flew in from all corners of the world to mark almost 12 years of work. The evenings format took shape on board the Jewel of London, a cruise boat that rocked out some pumping tunes and took us on a four hour journey up the River Thames. Timed nicely with bonfire night, guests were additionally provided with a spectacular fireworks display near Hammersmith bridge.

The evening was an important opportunity to recognise all the work that is going on in the various countries where United Through Sport operate and the many people that have contributed to the charity in the form of volunteering abroad or through generous financial giving. Many of our volunteers had the opportunity to hook up with old friends who they have shared overseas coaching work with, reminding them that they are important ambassadors for the organisation to take our message back to their communities at work or university.

Thanks to all that came and made it a great night. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Our work reaches 1600 extra people in the community

In partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), United Through Sport (UTS) implemented a series of community-based projects in the period of June-July 2015 to increase physical activity in the communities of Nelson Mandela Bay. These events were to encourage the residents of the Bay to lead a healthier lifestyle as well as to bring activities to the idle youth during the long school break. Over the winter school holiday, UTS conducted these projects in the form of three Community Walks and two Holiday Programmes in and around the Bay, where a total of 1589 participants took part in the various events.

This physical activity plan formed part of the Designed to Move campaign which highlights the importance of being physically active. As there are a lot of risks, conditions and diseases associated with physical inactivity, such as depression, heart disease and strokes, it was important to raise awareness around this. It is also important to inform the young children that they could pro long and improve the quality of their lives and brain power by taking part in physical activities.

The Community Walks were 2km routes in the townships and catered for everyone in the community; the young and the old. Each walk started off with a brief aerobics warm up session, especially considering how cold it was in the early mornings.  At the end of the walks and after the cooling down exercises, there were challenges and competitions done to showcase ways of doing fun and free physical activities. These included a skipping rope and hoola-hoop challenges and dance competitions. Prizes were awarded to the challenge participants and competition winners, as well as our oldest and youngest walkers.

All the communities warmly appreciated having such events in their township, as they rarely have the chance to participate in these kinds of opportunities in their remote area. The youngest participants were still learning how to walk and the eldest walkers were in their 70s.

The different elements incorporated in the Holiday Programmes were life-skills, role plays, sport, general knowledge quizzes, indigenous games as well as arts & crafts. UTS also included some of their own beneficiaries from the Senior School of Excellence to work as volunteers at the holiday camps. The older and more mature beneficiaries assisted as peer leaders to the participants. At the end of the camps, these youngsters felt really good about being involved in such an initiative, and being able to be of service to other children. It was a good opportunity to develop their leadership skills and to take responsibility for developing younger children from their communities.

The older children participated in life-skills which focused on HIV and AIDS awareness. The different fun and interactive games in these sessions taught the children about the importance of decisions they make and the consequences which follow, the myths and truths on identifying someone who is HIV positive, how to minimize the risks of being infected and how HIV is spread. The younger children spent a lot of time in the arts & crafts sessions, where they did face painting, paper masks, storytelling and such age appropriate activities.

On the sport aspects, the girls and boys took part in netball and soccer where they were coached by the UTS international volunteers. On the last day of the holiday programme, they played against each other, as well as an indigenous games tournament.

The winter holiday programme was a great success in enabling us to take key aspects of our ongoing programmes to communities that wouldn’t otherwise benefit. Being a development through sport organization; it is great to be working in partnership with the municipality to encourage healthier lifestyles in our communities.

“It feels great that I can give back to other children and pay forward what United Through Sport has done for me in my life.” Lorenda , UTS Beneficiary, 17 years old

“We never really think about the dangers of living an inactive life, yet there is so much we can do every day to avoid many diseases; we just need to move a little more every day.” Sonwabo Jacobs, Colchester Community Member, 45 years old.

10 Years of Progress

We are celebrating a decade of work in South Africa. Our first operation began ten years ago in Port Elizabeth. In that time we have established a great network of schools in which to use sport as a tool for development. We have permanently changed lives for the better in the impoverished areas in which we work.

Through our Mass Participation Programme (MPP) we have used sport as way to effectively tackle critical issues such as HIV and Aids, a major threat to kids growing up in townships. The MPP has also shown us which children show the correct attitude and level of promise in order to attend our Junior and Senior Schools of Excellence, where we have had great success. So much so, that our first year of grade 12’s all graduated to University.

With a solid infrastructure and a dedicated team in charge of operations, we aren’t letting up any time soon. Congratulations to all involved.

Watch our video and hear from Nick Mould, one of the United Through Sport founders, explain more.

Ashley Williams, Welsh International, Gives Support

Swansea City and Wales Captain Ashley Williams gives his support to United Through Sport.

We are excited to announce that Premier League Footballer Ashley Williams has given his backing to United Through Sport. The Wales and Swansea City FC Captain said of the charity “United Through Sport are doing some amazing things in parts of the world that need it the most”- “The work that United Through Sport does is vitally important and I’m proud to support it.”

The Centre-back recently celebrated his 50th International Cap and will be looking to lead Swansea City to a top 8 finish in the Premier League this year. We would like to congratulate Ashley on another great season of football and thank him for his support.

“United Through Sport are doing some amazing things in parts of the world that need it the most. Sport has the power to change people’s lives and teach them about so much more than the game they are playing. It’s hard to think that there are so many children out there who don’t have the opportunity to participate in organised sport. The work that United Through Sport does is vitally important and I’m proud to support it.”

Alex Runs the Paris Marathon

Alex Carlton-Porter, Director of PTL Sports, has completed the Paris Marathon for United Through Sport.

Alex was initially a little nervous about running such a great distance, stating on his fundraising page “bearing in mind the furthest I have ever run is 10K, this will undoubtedly be a very painful and unenjoyable event. However it is all for a good cause.”

“Painful and unenjoyable” as it may have been, Alex came up with the goods!

Completing the 26 miles 385 yard course in 4 hours and 59 minutes, he managed to raise just over £600 for United Through Sport. Alex and his company PTL Sports have supported United Through Sport for many years and it is a support that we are truly grateful to have.

We are always on the look out for people to represent us on stages such as this, raising both funds and awareness for United Through Sport. For more information about how you can get involved check out our fundraising section here.

Dutch Volunteers Donate Kit

After ending 2014 completely satisfied with the amazing job our volunteers did in the projects in which they were coaching and training during the year, we didn’t expect anything less from 2015.

At the beginning of January we received the first group of volunteers from United Through Sport, Netherlands. Anniek, Carmen, Esmée, Lot and Marjolein on a 4 week hockey program and Remco on a 5 week football program. Their programmes were a little bit different from the ones we are used to during the year. They were about to start coaching at summer camps in different places across Buenos Aires City.

The summer camps are free for all the kids that belong to a lower class family. They spent the day at the summer camp, or as we call them “colonias” with their parents having to work hard for a better future for their kids.

So, we start 2015 with a challenging new program: a new group of volunteers working in a different area that we aren’t used to.

Week after week the volunteers from Netherlands showed how committed they were to their job as coaches. From the little kids to the youngsters, they develop a nice relation and make them enjoy every moment learning more about hockey and football.

End of January came and their projects were about to finish, but they couldn’t leave without giving United Through Sport, Argentina a big surprise. They donated more than 15 hockey sticks, balls (hockey balls and footballs), bags and sport shirts to be used by future volunteers.

United Through Sport Staff want to congratulate and thank Anniek, Carmen, Esmée, Lot, Marjolein and Remco for a great job, all the nice memories they left in the kids at the summer camps and the useful equipment they donated for the future volunteers arriving.

Tennis Success for our Ghana Boys

United Through Sport in Ghana Academy Boys, Coaches and Staff give their best wishes and congratulations to three of the Ghana Tennis Players – Emmanuel Wettey, Albert Nti and George Nyarko. The three boys, all aged 15 years competed in the Seniors Tennis Tournament at the Accra National Sports Stadium and all managed to reach the tournament’s third round before making their exits from the competition. This is an incredible achievement for our Academy’s Tennis players as their opponents were much older than them as well as being considerably taller as well – as you will see in the photographs below!

Albert Nti completed the trio’s campaign in the tournament on Tuesday afternoon as he went up against the Ghana number 2 seed, George Darko. Albert was defeated in the match but he played tremendously and put up a good fight – much to the surprise of his opponent who was almost twice his size! Albert was easily returning his opponent’s fast serves and had him running around the court to reach his shots. As the match got into full swing more and more people filtered into the court to watch our junior player in his challenging match as he was surprising every one with his talent and skill. The final score left Nti defeated 6-1, 6-1 by Darko.

Some of the other match highlights in the tournament included Albert’s first round clash against Francis Gbolonyo – the match went on for three sets with the final result seeing Nti victorious with a win of 7-5, 1-6, 7-4.

Fellow United Through Sport Academy players George Nyarko and Emmanuel Wettey met each other in the second round; the match ended with George Nyarko defeating his colleague 6-1, 6-0 – although defeated by a fellow colleague the pair displayed excellent sportsmanship and congratulated each other on a challenging match.

Nyarko’s tournament campaign came to a close after being defeated by the Ghana number 11 seed, Francis Akpese. The match finished up with Akpese winning 6-3, 6-4 and moving on to the final stages of the tournament in the latter part of the week.

The tournament was a fantastic experience for all three boys and proved a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents to the Ghanaian Tennis world.

Under 11’s Triumph at Tournament

The newest recruits to United Through Sport in Ghana which form part of our new Under 11 side triumphed at the Right to Dream under 11’s tournament last Saturday, 29th November 2014 .

After a shaky start in the first match the players adjusted to the pitch and match format – 10 minutes each side with no off-side rule. The first match ended with a disappointing 2-0 defeat from the opposition and rival academy Right to Dream, but they picked themselves up and outshone their opponents in the second match of the group stage with a brilliant 2-1 win. As the boys found their game, they went from strength to strength for the rest of the tournament – the third match saw the team pick up even more momentum scoring goal after goal with the match finishing at a staggering 5-1 win to United Through Sport. This fantastic score sealed United Through Sport’s place in the tournament final

The tournament final saw United Through Sport take on rival academy team, Right to Dream – unlike their first meeting at the beginning of the day’s tournament, neither team were able to outwit each other to score. At full time the score was still 0-0 and the referee added 10 minutes of extra time to the match, this still didn’t bring results and the game was taken to penalties. United Through Sport started off well against their opponents as they took an early lead, scoring their penalties and saving the Right to Dream attempts; this was short-lived though and the teams were soon tied as they reached the end of the best of five shoot out. United Through Sport clinched the match in the additional penalties added – fellow players from U13’s and U15’s were ecstatic and joined the boys in their celebrations along with the staff members that had accompanied them.

Before the teams called it a day, the presentation ceremony took place with two trophies being awarded – the first being for the winning team and the second being for the best player of the tournament. United Through Sport were delighted to receive both trophies – winning the tournament and the best player award which went to one of our newest recruits, Richmond Asante aka Pedro.

All of the United Through Sport players and staff were over the moon and extremely proud of their achievement. It just shows that hard work and determination really does pay off!

A huge congratulations goes to all of our Under 11’s – long may your successes continue!

The United Through Sport U17’s are competing in their own tournament this coming Friday (5th December) and we hope they are able to replicate the U11’s success from last weekend.