In only its second active year, the Saints Volleyball Outreach (SVO) program is flourishing in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, providing organised sport and coaching opportunities to disadvantaged youngsters throughout the region.
The project (the work of, and partially powered by, the fundraising talents of the St Andrews women’s volleyball team) this year saw seven volunteers travel to the Southern African nation to coach volleyball in five impoverished schools, as well as to arrange and manage inter-school tournaments, train local volleyball coaches and to coordinate their more intense “player’s clinics”, aimed at keen players throughout the city.
“This is Hannah Berwian writing directly from Zambia”, declares the Saints Women’s Volleyball club president and third-year IR student, in correspondence with The Saint. She has been accompanied to Lusaka by four of her volleyball teammates – Lorena Tussis, Liliana Besosa, Vitalija Lavreckyte and Emma Fox – and two former club members (now alumni) – Britt Martin and Maureen Macisaac – all of whom are equally passionate and dedicated to the cause.
SVO has capitalised on the encouraging popularity of volleyball in Zambia, realising the need for more volunteer coaches to nurture the growing number of talented young players and eager beginners.
But there is more to the SVO philosophy than developing volleyball skills. As stated on the organisation website, the team environment provided by coaching and competition teaches the school kids “vital life skills like communication, reliability, collaboration and leadership”, qualities that school alone may struggle to preach. Therefore, to continue the SVO legacy when the volunteers are back home, an emphasis has this year been placed on training and equipping (with the help of donations from the Scottish Volleyball Association) local coaches, without whom the project would have little chance.
As well as continuing their good work in Lusaka, in partnership with the Zambian organisation ‘Sport in Action’ (SIA) the girls have even expanded their outreach to the southern city of Livingstone.
“We are usually based in the capital Lusaka but as there are hardly any volleyball coaches down in Livingstone we used our trip [there] to train around 15-20 very enthusiastic peer leaders as volleyball coaches,” said Hannah. “Training coaches is one of our core objectives to establish a sustainable volleyball infrastructure in Zambia.”
In June, the hard work of all the volunteers and coaches was rewarded with the advent of competition for the budding players and the successful initiation of what is hopefully a permanent inter-school league in Lusaka.
“Last weekend we also ran our annual SVO intersite tournament,” said Hannah. “With 10 teams participating from five different schools the tournament was a great success and saw a partially very high level of play.”
“To give the kids a continuous incentive to keep working hard we have established a SIA community league. In this framework the different teams that we work are gonna meet at least monthly to compete against each other.”
In one of the team’s regular blog posts Hannah reports: “The first game day of the SIA community league was successfully implemented at the Munali ground and saw 11 teams from five different schools competing against each other.”
In the committed fashion of the SVO volunteer she then proceeds to give detailed analysis of each team’s performance.
The last volunteers will remain in Zambia until late July before planning for the third, potentially bigger, annual trip gets underway. To find out more about the story behind SVO and to keep up with the fantastic efforts and events run by the Saints in Zambia, check out their website and blog posts here.
To help strengthen and expand the reach of SVO, you can donate.