I’ve been in KwaZulu-Natal for about a month now and wow has time flown! Towards the end of 2012 whilst sitting at my desk in an office in London I came up with the idea of volunteering abroad. Coming from a background working in fundraising for an international development charity I was hoping that taking the position of Programme Coordinator with WhizzKids United would give me more direct work on the ground with our beneficiaries. I thought giving something back to those less advantaged than me whilst gaining valuable experience in an amazing place would be a truly worthwhile experience, and I’m delighted to say that I was right!
During the last 4 weeks working with the dedicated WhizzKids United programme team I have been involved with several different projects all helping the residents of the Edendale township, just outside of Pietermaritzburg, in different ways. One of my major projects has been to compile a database of other local service providers working in the HIV and AIDS sectors. We are hoping that rather than all working independently, WhizzKids United can lead the way in collaborating with these organisations, giving local residents fuller HIV and AIDS treatment, care and support services, as well as helping orphans and vulnerable children in the area.
Over the last week however, the programme team has been working hard to organise a football tournament at Sinamuva Primary School. We organise these tournaments once pupils have completed our 4 session ‘On the Ball’ Life Skills curriculum, an innovative programme based around football games and drills which helps to develop the children’s ability to deal with important issues like discrimination, abuse and HIV and AIDS, and encourages them in thinking about and working towards goals in their lives. On this occasion we decided to combine the tournament with HIV testing and counselling sessions for the children; a great opportunity to reach so many vulnerable children. Having already seen how passionate children in Edendale were about playing football, and how engaged they were with the Life Skills programme, I was really looking forward to the tournament which we held last Saturday 4th May.
The morning of the tournament started with the children being organised into random teams of 5 – an equal mix of girls and boys – and allocated a team which took part in the 2010 South Africa World Cup. When organising the teams for my group at the start it was fun to see the difference in reactions from the team that were allocated the 2010 winners Spain compared to the team who got Honduras! That said, I did feel that allocating the children with countries they may not have heard of provided an educational lesson in itself and fostered the message of equality which WhizzKids United endeavours to teach.
The tournament was a success and culminated in a final between Germany and the USA, of which Team Germany came out on top. It was great to see how excited the children were about playing in the final but also heart-warming seeing all the other students getting behind their peers.
The day was about more than the final and the winners of the tournament though. For the children it was the graduation from the WhizzKids United Life Skills programme; reinforcing the messages which they had learned, providing an opportunity for HIV testing and counselling, and giving a fun day out for all of the children.
Being a part of the tournament was a great way to finish my first month with WhizzKids Unnited. I’m already looking forward to my next one and all that comes between!