Swaziland Welcomes United Through Sport

Last month our Director, Sam Eve, headed south to see how rugby is making a big impact on the lives of young people in Swaziland as they struggle to come to terms with a worrying HIV/AIDS epidemic that now infects more than 1 in 3 of the country’s population. Read Sam’s Report below:

One thing that struck me about Swaziland was just how lush, green and beautiful the country was. The people also seemed so much happier and less stressed in contrast to those living in the dirty and overcrowded townships of Port Elizabeth from where I’d just come.

However behind the beauty and the smiles hides a much sadder truth. The truth that 1 in 3 of the population are dying of AIDS. Swaziland has now surpassessed Botswana as the country with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. A staggering 39% of the population are infected with the disease and many don’t even know they are infected. Those that do know often cannot afford the treatment or know where to get it from. Those that don’t know continue to infect others. Cultural ‘norms’ in the country further accentuate the problem. Each year the King of Swaziland takes a new wife. Some men with HIV/AIDS still believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure them. Incest and domestic violence are common place. As a result, women are very much seen as second rate citizens and so the cycle of poverty continues. For young Swazi’s growing up under this black cloud, the future is bleak.

That is why United Through Sport are working with a local grassroots partner called SKRUM who are using rugby to tackle the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic and promote greater gender equality to young people throughout Swaziland.

SKRUM works by training up to 2 teachers in every primary and secondary school to become rugby coaches. These teachers are given all the coaching resources they need such as training manuals, balls and pumps to help them establish the sport within the school. The teachers are then given information provided by NERCHA (the National Emergency Response Council for HIV/AIDS) and SWAGGA (a charity dedicated to tackling domestic violence against women and children) and guidance from SKRUM on how to deliver this information to their students informally through the game of rugby and off the pitch. Rugby simply provides the vehicle in which to deliver this information as well as an opportunity to develop important life skills in the children such as teamwork, sportsmanship, fitness and self-esteem. The physicality of the game also works in challenging the tradional role of women in Swazi society and works towards breaking down the stereotypes that currently exist.

In my visit to Swaziland I was hugely impressed by the dedication of the SKRUM team and how quickly they have moved the project forward in only a few months. Whilst only in their first year, SKRUM has received interest from over 90 schools keen to adopt the programme. Sport is a major motivator for children to attend school and as such Head Teachers are keen to add rugby to the curriculum.

As more and more schools come on board, it will be possible to develop a schools rugby league bringing the community closer together and re-enforcing the positive values of SKRUM.

Sheffield College Partnership Success

First year students studying for their Foundation Degree in Sports, Coaching and Exercise had a real workout when their course tutor, David Harrison, suggested partnering with United Through Sport to raise money for charity as part of their Event Organisation module.

However the students rose to the challenge as usual and, working in groups of four, set about planning, organising and hosting a series of exciting fundraising events to benefit our charity. The events ranged from race nights to Christmas parties. The top fundraisers in the year group were Mike Staley and Samantha Fowler who raised a total of £266.64 between them. Adrian Abdulla, a lecturer at the College and an impressive 4th Degree Black Belt in Kickboxing, organised a massive Kickboxing Tournament at The Octagon Centre in Sheffield to further add to the students fundraising efforts.

In 2007, Sheffield College students and staff raised a staggering £819.14 towards United Through Sport! The official cheque was presented to Sam Eve of United Through Sport at Sheffield College on 23rd January. Thanks must go to all those who not only organised the events but also to those who supported them.

Following this great success, Sheffield College has agreed to continue the charity partnership into 2008 with the new first years hoping to beat the impressive fundraising target set by last years students. We wish them all the very best!

Age Versus Experience in Triathlon Challenge

When United Through Sport fundraiser, Adrian Love, 20, went head to head against his brother-in-law Tom Collins, 29, at the Michelob Ultra London Triathlon on Saturday 4th August, he was out to prove that age overcomes experience every time. But was he right? Competing in the ‘Sprint’ event comprising of a 750m Swim, 21km Bike and 5.2km Run, Love’s hopes for glory appeared in jeopardy as Collins secured an early lead after an impressive swimming leg of only 12 minutes and 48 seconds. The bike also proved tricky with both brother-in-laws battling it out neck and neck ensuring Collin’s steady grip on the overall lead. And so it was all down to the run…

Determined to prove that age equals agility, Love moved up a gear beating his brother-in-law by 11 minutes and 32 seconds on the final leg. But was it enough? It was a close run victory. Love beat Collins with an overall time of 01:25:07 to 01:32:59.

The real winners however were United Through Sport who scored over £900 thanks to Adrian’s fantastic fundraising efforts. Let’s hope the challenge continues next year…

Swimming the Solent Challenge

On Saturday 14th October 2006, three brave souls took up the challenge of swimming from the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth, across the choppy waters and shipping lanes of the Solent. All of the swimmers survived the crossing, and in the process raised around £1000 for United Through Sport.

The challengers for the event were Henry Humphreys of Failand, near Bristol, and Peter Bailey and Hugh Moss from West London. All three were introduced to each other in another mammoth swim-challenge, when they took on the length of Lake Windermere earlier in the year.

Starting from Ryde on the Isle of Wight, the team swam from the shore, following the famous pier, and turning out into the open sea. After around two-and-a-half hours of continuous strokes, they reached the Portsmouth headland, completing their incredible feat of endurance.

The effort was a well organised event and thanks must be offered to the Ryde Harbour Master volunteers for their excellent support during the crossing

United Through Sport Golf Day Tees-Off

On 4th October 2006, United Through Sport held their first Charity Golf Day at the Beaconsfield Golf Club.

The day was a great social and fundraising success, welcoming teams and participants from a number of big corporations including ITV, Vodafone, News International, The Telegraph, GCap and Carat. The day involved a hotly contested 4-ball Stableford competition, followed by buffet lunch, prize-giving and auction which showcased some outstanding prizes.

Thanks to the tireless work of the event organiser, Karen Platt, the event raised £6000 which has subsequently been sent to South Africa to build a community sports pitch in a township school.

United Through Sport would like to extend a big thanks to all the teams involved, as well as for the generous support offered by those who contributed to the day in terms of donations, prizes and moral support, not least of all GCap and The Golf Shack of Taplow. A special thanks also needs to be given to Dave King (The Telegraph) for his continuous bidding throughout the auction!

Thanks are also due to the members of Beaconsfield Golf Club, for offering their outstanding facilities for the event.

Half-Marathon Madness

On 9th July 2006, Dan Woods and Sherden Timmins took on the challenge of the Wycombe half-marathon for United Through Sport.

The two runners posted differing times (the difference being around 30 minutes) but Sherden did wait patiently at the line for his less practised running partner! Together, they raised £750…

Many thanks to all those who sponsored the pair.