Gap Year Student Louis Platt Reflects On His Experiences in South Africa

Before I came to Port Elizabeth to volunteer with United Through Sport, I worked at a summer camp with 9-year olds instructing a lot of the same sports I was set to do with UTS. I thought those coaching experiences would make volunteering abroad a breeze. Early on I learned that a lot of students had never worked with sports coaches or swam in a pool before, that made creating those vital strong relationships more difficult. For instance, during a football (soccer) match my first week a kid was knocked in the head by a bad pass and he fell to the ground, before I could get halfway over to him he was backup on his feet playing. I pulled him over to the side to check on him, thinking he should rest until practice ended, asked him if he was alright and without hesitation he smiled at me and said, “Yes!” It was something in the glow in his eyes and smile told me he really didn’t want to miss a minute of the action.

They looked forward to our arrival each week, the kids crowded around the van, sang and danced with us as we unloaded and unpacked the sports equipment. When we arrived back at the accommodation, instead o f taking naps and long showers, volunteers huddled by the pool or in the lounge to share stories about kids who improved tackling during rugby or told the funniest joke during practice. These post-practice hang out sessions made us appreciate our time with the kids more and helped us create stronger bonds with each other. During my stay I met new friends from the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Zimbabwe. We also created stronger bonds on the weekend excursions along the Garden Route or in up-and-coming Port Elizabeth. I am grateful for the experience United Through Sport helped provide because they did not shy away from showing and telling their volunteers about the lives in the townships we work in and created unforgettable bonds with the students, UTS employees and our co-volunteers.


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