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Adventures in Africa 2012

Photograph: Florence Roberts

Ben Gibbons, Maria Eracleous and Kate Houghton have recently returned from Lusaka where they were part of the 6 week long UK Sport IDEALS Zambia Project. Read below to discover more about some of their incredible African experiences...

Ben:

“I was based at Fountain of Hope; an orphanage for boys from the streets and also a community school for girls and boys. I had the opportunity to participate in numerous activities and not just sports coaching. I got to teach English and Maths, participate in 'Hot Seat' mentoring meetings and also coach cricket sessions. It was honestly a life-changing experience, and one which I will never forget.

I felt privileged to work alongside the constantly smiling African children and to become friends with the two most inspirational people I have ever met: my peer leaders Issac and Stephen.
Both of them work at Fountain of Hope all year round, continuing the project through their hardwork and dedication. They were supremely talented coaches and athletes, and I am so greatful to them for everything I learnt when I was out there. I would love to work with them again in the future, and know I will be visiting Zambia again soon.


”

Maria:

“During my six weeks in Zambia I was placed at Chipata Open Community School. It was in the heart of Chipata compound. At the school I coached football and volleyball and did some HIV/AIDS awareness workshops.
I was quite nervous during the first weeks since I was only coaching boys and thought that they would not respect me as a coach since I was a girl. But the boys were so welcoming and appreciative of everything I would coach them and soon I felt I had earned their trust and respect as a coach.
I started feeling like part of the school and the compound and walking from the bus to the school we felt welcomed by the community.
More and more children showed up during our breaks and asked to play games with us and soon we were familiar with Zambian songs and games as well. It felt like home and going to the school every day became routine. I was no longer stressed about the sessions and became comfortable adapting the sessions to the needs of the children, the equipment available and the day to day turn out.
The HIV/AIDS workshop we ran went great and the children enjoyed it very much. We were later invited on a day out with the same class of children to a water park where we had the chance to meet them outside the school environment and become friends.
We grew accustom to working so closely with the children and our teams it was very sad to say goodbye.
At the start of the trip I believed that this would be a once in a lifetime experience.
However, those 6 weeks ensured Zambia wouldn't be a once in a lifetime experience.
I will be visiting Zambia again. And not only Zambia but other developing countries as well and do as much volunteer work and community work as possible. ”

Kate:

“Before going I was really nervous, as I had never done anything like this before. And honestly, the night before I didn't want to go! Which in hindsight was stupid, as it was the most incredible six weeks of my life, even if that does sound cliche.
The other students who went were like-minded, fun and passionate and as a group we bonded really quickly - I have definitely made friends for life.
The same can be said for the Zambians I worked with. I was based at Fountain of Hope, like Ben. Issac and Stephen were hilarious. They were so much fun, and had so much energy! But they were also really engaged and focused about delivering the sports sessions. They were keen to share coaching experiences and I learnt a lot from them, and hope they learned from me too.
The children at Fountain of Hope were unbelievable. Having coached in the UK, it was interesting to be able to compare. Despite having no equipment or proper facilities the children were supremely talented. They were also much fitter, and more enthusiastic about the sessions as for them, sport presents a way to a better life. I felt that children who I've coached in the UK can often take things for granted through not paying attention at sessions, or not trying. But the Zambians always gave 100%. I really respected them, and tried my utmost to provide drills, skills and games that they would not only enjoy but would help them develop. It was so rewarding working with them. I got to know them all really well. And I hope to see them all again.
Although I thoroughly appreciated coaching, it wasn't all work and no play. The weekends and Livingstone provided some of the most memorable moments of the six weeks...
Trading football shirts at a Zambian market, bartering to get the best price;
visiting a Zambian water park; fitting 7 of us in a taxi to get to a Zambian club; standing on the edge of Victoria Falls are all moments I will never forget.
I would highly recommend this trip. It was refreshing seeing people who have so little, thriving and living life to the full
”

For more information contact:

Katie Binks at katie.binks@durham.ac.uk