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BUNAC checked in for a quick Q&A with Sports Coaching South Africa participant Tom.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I felt that I firstly needed a break from education having spent many years studying and working hard I just needed to stop for a bit. I thought that before Uni I needed a bit of an experience to prepare me for all aspects of Uni life and the volunteer program seemed perfect. I could coach football which is a great passion of mine whilst also helping people out and seeing a different culture.
Describe a typical day on your placement.
Get to a local township school about half 9 or half 10 depending on whether I was on early or lates. I would usually have a rough idea of a couple of drills and stuff to do, but you just have to expect the unexpected: one day you could have 20 kids the next day you could have 100. We would usually have a chat with some of the kids and talk about footy and other stuff before the session started. Then get them all warmed up and playing footy and having fun, then we would usually get involved with the games just for a bit of fun for us then after that end the session. Then at lunch jump back in the combi and head for the spar to get in some quick lunch before we arrived at the next school. The format would stay the same for the next school as we did for all the schools, but there would probably be a different amount of kids and differing abilities so every day was challenging. Then around 2 or 3 head back to Maranatha and chill then help the Maranatha kids with their homework, which more than often would end up with a game of cricket or football. Then the next day would come with another 2 new schools.
What was your most memorable experience?
One of many memorable things was going to a local township jazz club on a typical South African night out. Socialising with the great and friendly locals after a hard days work was really cool. Just shooting some pool, having a few drinks and chatting to them was just great. The best part was when we told them what we were doing they commended us and told us we were helping to really shape the youth of the country. The kids were the other amazing thing they just wanted to know everything about you and just spend a bit of time with them. They were all such legends with great personalities, were really great fun to work with and help out.
What did you achieve from the programme?
I think personally my biggest achievement was gaining confidence. Before I went to South Africa didn’t have many friends and I stayed in a lot and hardly ever went out with mates. South Africa and being on a gap year taught me to just be myself and people would love me just for that, now I have never been so popular I have so many great friends that I keep in contact and meeting up with now I’m home. My confidence grew a lot and I was always up for going out with the others and socialising which is something I would have never of dreamed of doing at home. The other main thing the gap year has done for me personally is it’s made it easier for me to talk to people on all levels, I used to feel intimidated and nervous by some people when I talked to them, I would mumble a lot and sometimes stutter, but now I can be confident in my abilities and communicate easily. It also helped me domestically like I had to do all of my washing and drying for the first time which was a scary prospect, but it’s helped me to prepare for an independent life. The whole experience just helped me to prepare for university the social and working side so I won’t go there feeling nervous and afraid of the experience anymore. It’s also given me the confidence to travel more and see the world.
A key sporting achievement for me was working with the township of Motherwell at the beach football festival. It was great to work with kids of an older age being used to that back home, whilst also working with older coaching members of the community. I think it was a key achievement because of how South African it was really, a load of schools just turned up expecting to be a competition and there wasn’t one, so we had to delegate and organise the tournament between the 3 of us. We got all the coaches together and explained the rules and delegated some of them till everyone was happy, it wasn’t easy as they all wanted the rules the way they’re used to them but me and the other lads were up for a challenge. I found it great refereeing and organising the competition. It made it seem really worthwhile when it came off. The passion shown by all the players was amazing and it was such a great thing to be part of, when it got near the final there was such a great party atmosphere all of the supporters cheering on there own teams creating a real samba feel to the competition. The skill and talent some of the players had were phenomenal a much higher standard than I had ever seen before which really surprised me.
If you're interested in volunteering in South Africa, give us a call on 033 3999 7516 or request a call back.
If you'd like to share your BUNAC experience, email firstname.lastname@example.org