In 2007 and 2008 I visited South Africa as a tourist. It was love at first sight for this breathtaking country and its wonderful people. I wanted to go back as soon as possible to work as a volunteer.
Having been an international player for my country Belgium for many years, I wanted to share my passion for volleyball, which has given me so much, and introduce the sport at an underprivileged primary school in Hout Bay in 2009. I worked with grades 6 and 7 for 1 month. The kids loved it so much and learned so fast I decided to return to Cape Town for a longer period to extend volleyball to other primary schools in and around the city. The Department of Education allowed me to teach volleyball during school time as part of “life orientation” lessons. I took a career break of 8 months to make it a real volleyball project.
The success was overwhelming! Kids, teachers and principals were thrilled about it! I met Chris, an American beach volleyball player, and Nienke a Dutch volleyball player, who are living in Cape Town and are as passionate about volleyball as I am. They started volunteering and supporting the project and they still are today. I also got in touch with the coaches at a local sports boarding high school called Western Cape Sport School (WCSS). They invited me to bring some kids to the annual trials at the school. Straight away 3 kids were accepted which was a fantastic achievement after just 8 months. This was a huge opportunity for those kids living in townships in poverty under very difficult circumstances. One of them even made it to captain of the boys’ team! But sadly the happiest 8 months of my life came to an end and I had to go home to get back to work. I was heartbroken having to leave the kids and there were lots of tears from both sides.
Fortunately, the project continues! Ever since I travel to Cape Town twice a year for 1 month to play volleyball with the kids. Chris and Nienke are still helping as volunteers. Every year we take some of our kids to the trials at WCSS. As of 2015, 22 of them were attending this school thanks to this project. One of our boys even received a scholarship at the “Math’s and Science Academy” of Constantia. We are extremely proud of him! But this project is not just for the most talented kids but for all of them learning how to play volleyball.
This is why we need the support from donors to keep this project sustainable and help us create a regular league for the students to train and compete. We’re currently raising funds to help pay for local coaches at the schools and to purchase more sports equipment, so we really appreciate any support you can provide.
All the success to date would not have been possible without support from Kevin and Karen, a local couple who introduced me to the schools and being great supporters from the start, lots of overseas volunteers, and the never ending involvement and support of Chris and Nienke. I have learned so much from the kids, the teachers and the principals. Their warm friendship, huge enthusiasm and appreciation are priceless and made me a better person. Spending my time with them is a great privilege and an enrichment in my life! I could not miss it for the world! They are forever in my heart!
Favorite Quote by Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people, and in a way that little else does”