On Saturday the 25th of May, five members from the St Andrews University Volleyball Club and their former coach are setting out for Zambia to coach Volleyball and inspire through sport. A generous donation of equipment from the Scottish Volleyball Association is going along with them.
“Inspired by Sport” is the tag line and motivation of the newly founded Saints Volleyball Outreach (SVO). Three days before leaving, the five members form the St Andrews women’s team are close to meeting their £10,000 fundraising target to fund the inaugural SVO trip to Lusaka, Zambia. The girls will each spend between four to six weeks in Lusaka working with Sport In Action a Zambian non-governmental organisation. During this time, they will travel to impoverished communities to coach Volleyball, run leadership workshops, organize intercity tournaments, and coordinate the development of local coaches with Zambia’s Olympic Youth Development Centre.
The main partner, Sport In Action (SIA), is (NGO) whose purpose is to improve people’s quality of life through sport and recreational activities. Saints Volleyball Outreach aims to demonstrate that sport, and in this case Volleyball, has the power to act as a mobilising tool in a way that no other activities do. The combination of the fun, enjoyment and physical challenges experienced by children over the world prompted SIA to utilize sport as the ideal arena through which valuable life lessons can be acquired.
The SVO founder Britt Martin first had the idea to create a Volleyball-specific outreach programme in Lusaka when travelling on a rickety Zambian bus in 2011 when volunteering as part of the University’s Project Zambia initiative. The 1.5 hours she was travelling each day to Chipata Open Community School in Chipata Compound, gave her a lot of time to contemplate. Of the 45 university athletes, from seven different British universities, that came out to Zambia that summer there were only two volunteers sent with Volleyball-specific experience. Although Volleyball is not a particularly popular sport in the UK, in Zambia it is one of the most popular sports, alongside basketball, netball, and football. To compensate this shortcoming, Britt created Saints Volleyball Outreach along with four enthusiastic and committed teammates aiming to inspire leadership and community participation through sport.
At the same time, the project is associated with the volunteering programme of the Vollyball Club at Madras College to promote Volleyball in Scotland and particularly the local community of St Andrews. From the next academic year, running a weekly session at the local school shall attract the students’ attention to the sport, which is hardly found on the regular PE schedules, and create an incentive to get more involved and become a part of the growing network of the Scottish Volleyball Association (SVA).
It is of greatest importance to the members to instil longevity in this initiative and the team want to ensure that Saints Volleyball Outreach programme is an annual project which can grow to include a wide range of members from the St Andrews Volleyball Club and beyond making a lasting contribution to the development of Volleyball on a local and cross-cultural basis.
Starting the fundraising in September with a Bucket Shake during the Alfred Dunhill Golf Tournament golfing legend Dustin Johnson was so generous to donate £150. Beside bakesales and bucket shakes, the group raised money by running a Date Auction at Rascal’s Bar in coordination with the Volleyball Club, amounting to £1000 for the project. Indiviually, donations from family and friends were earned by committing to challenges like the Edinburgh Half-Marathon or a one-day Cross-Scotland Cycle.
The team is also very much indebted to the enormous organizational and financial support that they are receiving from their Athletic Union, the President Emily Griffith and the Director of Sport Stephen Stewart in particular.
In terms of equipment, the girls were very happy and grateful to receive bountiful donation of balls, ball bags, shirts and more to distribute at Zambian schools and workshops at the Olympic Youth Development Centre.
SVO is very close to their goal of reaching £10,000 but need a final push: please visit www.justgiving.com/saintsvolleyballoutreach to donate or check out www.saintvolleyballoutreach.com to learn more about the project.