United Through Sport endeavors to offer a pathway out of poverty, where children can enter their programmes from five years old and remain assisted throughout their childhood all the way into employment when they are young adults. This is conducted through six main programmes: Early Childhood Literacy, Mass Participation, Girls Unite, Junior School of Excellence, Senior School of Excellence and Higher Education and Job Skills Training.
The Mass Participation Programme focuses on structured sports coaching and physical education in Football, Rugby, Cricket, Netball, Hockey, Tennis, Basketball and Swimming and combining it with key education about sexual health (with a focus on HIV and AIDS), emotional well being, gender equality and alternatives to violence to children between the age of 10 and 14 across the disadvantaged communities of Nelson Mandela Bay.
Problem to be tackled
The right to play, health and education is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The reality in South Africa, however, speaks a different language: Children and Youth not only lack spaces and opportunities to play, access to good quality health and education, they also grow up in an environment that is not conducive or supportive in this regard.
Most of the communities where the United Through Sport interventions take place are left disadvantaged from the historical struggle against Apartheid, and people battle to make ends meet (about 22% of the area have less than 500 Rand / CHF 30.00 a month at their disposal) and average household income remains around 2’600 Rand / CHF 157.5 per month. In these communities the development of infrastructure as well as people has been neglected for a long time, resulting in little economic activities and high unemployment, badly equipped schools and a pathetic health system. Young people usually get little exposure to youth development programs, and NPO operation only reaches small parts of these communities due to logistical and funding constraints.
Children and youth in the townships and impoverished rural communities thus often have no possibilities or spaces to interact with one another in healthy and meaningful activities. As a result, violence, misuse of drugs and alcohol, obesity, learning difficulties because of low self-esteem and low level of concentration are major characteristics of the unattended township youth.
When it comes to sport in particular, the gap between rich and poor becomes evident once more: The country competes at the top level in several international sports yet the huge majority of children from historically disadvantaged areas are not afforded the same opportunities as those from traditionally privileged backgrounds. Yet sport and play can have a crucial role in the process of growing up, helping a young person by focusing their goals, dreams and outlook on life.
United Through Sport’s mission is to provide access to good quality health information, key life skills and top-level education to every child in South Africa no matter where they live or what family they are born into, through their participation in their programmes. They are committed to using sport as a tool to develop the disadvantaged and vulnerable youth. They do this by:
- using direct sports coaching – for its health benefits, improved emotional well-being and increased life skills (teamwork, leadership, decision making, communication),
- using sport to discuss critical issues – by delivering curriculums on topics such as HIV / AIDS awareness and Gender Issues in a fun and interactive manner on the sports field,
- using sport for improved education – by providing pathways to success for talented and dedicated individuals through scholarships to top local schools and tertiary education as well as early literacy programmes,
- providing Foundation phase literacy programmes – teaching children from five to nine years old to read and create a passion for reading,
- providing specific Girls Empowerment programmes to improve confidence, leadership and resiliency for adolescent girls and
- providing vocational training and mentoring for youth to give them the best possible chance of securing long term employment.
The project targets children and youth who come from the disadvantaged communities around the area of Port Elizabeth with the main challenges HIV, no food, no education, no opportunities, no visions.
With the support from The SOL Foundation, United Through Sport will be able to continue their work within the Mass Participation Programme and also build two new sports grounds, one will be at a school and the other at a football club, that will not only benefit their programmes but also the communities in the area.
United Through Sport is focussed on working with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds using the power of sport to improve education, raise health awareness and build life-skills.