Sport has tremendous power. The power to unite and inspire. The power to enrich lives and communities. By engaging in sport, participants realise considerable physical, mental and social benefits. Through sport, people learn values that transcend boundaries of age, gender, race, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation, age and physical or mental abilities.
Sport is a basic human right. A community without access to sport is a community that has been denied a vital tool to tackle many of their challenges.
Sport for Children
For many of us, some of our happiest memories of childhood are evoked when we remember playing and participating in sport. Through play, children realise a multitude of benefits. Play benefits health, stimulates brain growth and improves intelligence, memory and vocabulary. Play encourages creative thinking and introduces group interaction and visual spatial skills. Children also learn behaviours that last into adulthood: social competence, learning to express their emotions and the development of self-esteem and self-worth.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that ‘all children have the right to relax and play’ but for many children, the opportunity to participate in sport and play is unavailable. As a result, these children miss out on valuable learning and growth opportunities.
The provision of inclusive play and sport is a tool to enrich and improve children’s lives. Children are naturally drawn to activities that provide fun, excitement and challenge. By providing access to organised sport, we can engage all children, especially the most marginalised and vulnerable, allowing them to have fun and create life-long memories.
THE STORY SO FAR
Founder of 'Sport for Africa', Mark, explains...
The seeds for 'Sport for Africa' were sown in the summer of 2015 whilst I was living in London, UK. With a background in project management and sports coaching, I had been working part-time in community sport initiatives, principally around increasing sport participation within marginalised groups in lower socioeconomic areas. I had an interest in seeing if any of these models could be transferable to developing countries where access to central support & funding was severely limited and sport provision in lower socioeconomic communities was minimal or non-existent. Whilst researching this idea, a new not-for-profit organisation using a marathon in Uganda to create funding for community projects had caught my eye. In May 2015, I travelled to Masaka, Uganda to take part in the inaugural 'Uganda Marathon'.
During the week-long experience in Uganda, I learned of innovative ways that sport can be used to enable sustainable funding (in this case, using marathon sponsorship as a funding vehicle). Later that year, I became part of the Uganda Marathon team. During my visits to Uganda over the subsequent years, I have met with many local leaders who struggle to keep community sports initiatives afloat because of limited access to equipment, skills training and funding.
In November 2017, I began a new project: 'Adventures in Running'. The premise of this project was to combine spending time at 'Sport for Development' initiatives around the world with training for and competing in endurance running events. During the project, I engaged community sport leaders to understand their operating models and their successes and challenges to operating in a sustainable way, furthering my knowledge in this field and sharing with others. During this time, I visited and worked with 15 groups and organisations in Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, USA, Kenya & Uganda.
Becoming 'Sport for Africa'
Sport for Africa was formed in July 2019 to utilise some of my learning to provide support to grassroots community sports organisations in Africa. Our mission is to enable these organisations to survive and then thrive in a sustainable fashion rather than having an ongoing dependency and focus on foreign aid and donations.
The primary focus of Sport for Africa is to prove that community sports organisations in low-income areas can be self-sufficient and operating in a sustainable fashion using existing, locally available skills, industry and entrepreneurship. The principle vehicle for this is our 'Seeds for Sport' programme. Through this programme, we engage sports projects who are operating with minimal resources and undertake a qualification process to understand their mission, operating model and obstacles for success. Successful candidates will qualify for a seed loan toward a small business initiative, the profits from which will need to be invested into community sports provision. Upon achieving a pre-agreed level of profit, the initial seed investment will be returned and used for the next qualified sports project.
The funding for this start-up loan is generated from providing coaching, teaching and sport participation opportunities in East Africa, as well as personal contributions from well-wishers - that's where you come in!
Through monitoring, refining and continuously improving our work, we can understand the best way to remove obstacles to sports provision in communities with the highest need and allow access to sport for everyone.
If this sounds like something you or your organisation would be keen to be involved with - I'd love to hear from you.
Mark - Founder, Sport for Africa
If you would like to find out more about our work, we'd love to hear from you.