Numerous Cape Town-based not-for-profit organisations (NPOs) have received a boost of youthful energy and expertise, thanks to 17 student volunteers who travelled all the way from the United States to make a difference in under-resourced communities. The youngsters visited the Mother City during June and July, as part of an initiative organised by the international organisation Student-Athletes Abroad.
Nawaal Nacerodien, the South African director of Beyond Sports who facilitated the project, said that the students contributed in areas such as fundraising, research and social media communications. “While many of the students are excellent athletes, they were mainly selected for their people and life skills that would enable them to make a difference in a variety of programmes. It has been a life-changing cross-cultural and development experience for many.”
Mornings were spent at the offices of Inyathelo (The South African Institute for Advancement) in Woodstock. This organisation has a well-equipped Civil Society Sustainability Centre, where the students could strategise, plan and undertake research using its state-of-the-art facilities. During afternoons they volunteered at NPOs throughout the peninsula.
Twenty-year-old Chelbi Graham, who is studying early childhood education at John Carroll University in north-eastern Ohio, worked with Project Playground in Langa and Gugulethu. “As an Afro-American, I was interested in visiting Africa, and to discover South Africa for myself,” said Chelbi, who excels in basketball as well as track and field events. “Project Playground is involved in numerous activities like netball, soccer, art, dance and after-school tutoring. It helps children develop their self-esteem and belief in the future.”
Twenty-two-year old Marie Brockman is a biology graduate from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania. “I first came to South Africa two years ago, for two weeks,” she said. “I fell in love with the country and was keen to return and help out.”
Marie got involved in Community Health Intervention Programmes (CHIPS), which exposed her to learning and physical activity programmes for four to nine-year-olds at 17 Cape Town schools. The organisation also offers Optifit exercise classes for 15-60 year-olds; and the Live It Up programme which helps keep senior citizens physically and mentally active.