“I got to know South Africa from a completely different angle. Not from the tourist side. I became part of a community. A community that has given me a warm welcome and showed me what “Ubuntu” means.”
Sophia has been a volunteer at “PLAY HANDBALL ZA” in Daveyton, Johannesburg for two months. In Johannesburg North-East she experiences township life and helps at the Kgalema Primary School with Physical Education during Life Skill Classes and in afternoon programmes assist Sports Initiative Project at up to seven primary schools with the development of handball.
PLAY HANDBALL: Why is handball important for you and what did it gave/ gives you?
Sophia: Handball is a team sport in which every single player is crucial in a game. You notice that as soon as you’re on the court with your team. Handball has taught me to take responsibility and to support my fellow players. Handball has shown me what it means to be a team – both in victories and defeats, both on and off the field. In addition to numerous lessons, sport has brought me many new friends, who over the years have become a second family for me.
PLAY HANDBALL: How did you heard about PLAY HANDBALL ZA?
Sophia: The first time I heard about the organisation was at the of Handball 2017, when I met volunteers representing Play Handball ZA with an information stand.
PLAY HANDBALL: Why did you decided to become a Handball Volunteer in South Africa?
Sophia: After 12 years of school, I wanted to see something of the world and get to know other cultures before continuing with theory and learning during my studies. Africa with its culture, which is so different from the German culture, has always fascinated me. And when I heard about Play Handball and that I could support projects in South Africa as a volunteer with Handball, the sport that has accompanied me for years in my life, it was my decision – I want to do that.
PLAY HANDBALL: How long have you been now a handball volunteer in South Africa?
Sophia: I arrived at the beginning of June. So it’s now almost exactly 2 months. Time flies! Only one month left…
PLAY HANDBALL: Tell us something about your volunteer experience so far.
Sophia: In the morning I work in a school and teach physical education. In the afternoon I teach handball every day at a different school. It’s hard to summarize the work. No two days are the same. And I quickly learned that you don’t get far with fixed plans here and that spontaneity and above all flexibility are very important. For the sports units I have five handballs, hats and bibs. That means for me: Back to the roots. No large superstructures for equipment fireball and Co. But it’s simply an unbelievable pleasure to see how happy the children are about the “simple” games and that it doesn’t take so much effort to get physically active.
PLAY HANDBALL: What was the most memorable experience?
Sophia: My absolute favorite experience was during my first week. It was my first visit to a South African primary school and I was supposed to give a sports lesson spontaneously (and completely unprepared). In addition I had a dry green area, no (sports) utensils, 20 minutes time and suddenly two whole school classes to occupy. So I played a tag game “bridge ticking” with them. And after a few teething problems it went quite well. At the end of the “sports lesson” we wanted to take a memory photo with everyone and when the teachers were just about to position everyone, a girl came from behind and hugged me – without even saying a word. In my whole life I have never felt such deep and unbelievably honest gratitude than with this embrace of the little, maybe 8-year-old girl. Words were completely unnecessary. And the gratitude that this little girl gave me with the embrace was founded in 20 minutes of playing bridge ticking … That was an incredible feeling for me, because it showed me how quickly you can actually make people happy and help them…
PLAY HANDBALL: What was the greatest challenge until now?
Sophia: The first tournament was to take place in a week’s time, with several school classes playing against each other. For the afternoon training I visited one of the schools. Brian told me that they should just play handball to practice for the tournament. Easy game, I thought. Just two teams, one ball and downhill. I thought… Because when I arrived it turned out that they had never heard of handball before, let alone played… Holy mackerel! How were the children supposed to play a tournament in a week? The training session went well – very well even. The children were ambitious and highly motivated to learn as much as possible so that they would do as well as possible in the tournament. Next Wednesday the comparison with the other schools took place and if I hadn’t known that they had held a handball for the first time the week before, I wouldn’t have seen it. I was impressed. Impressed by the children how quickly they had learned. And impressed by handball. That it doesn’t take much to play it – two teams, one ball. That was it. No great equipment or special previous knowledge is necessary to enjoy this sport.
PLAY HANDBALL: How do you experience the handball coaching at school/ community?
Sophia: It is a unique experience. I was faced with challenges that I would never have had in Germany. And I learned that there is always a solution – especially if you work together.
PLAY HANDBALL: Do you think your work has an impact?
Sophia: As a “little volunteer” I saw myself at first coming to give the children an opportunity for sports. What I didn’t know: Most children and teenagers who do sports do it because it is a distraction – another option – from drugs and alcohol. The teachers also came to me and thanked me for the sports units because they didn’t know what to do with the children, what to teach them when it came to sports. So to the question of whether my work has any influence: Yes, it has. I will not be able to change the world or make South Africa a better country. But if my training can make even one child happy and distract them from drugs, my work has an impact on a small world – and that’s enough.
PLAY HANDBALL: How is the life with a local South African host family?
Sophia: I got to know South Africa from a completely different angle. Not from the tourist side, which probably most people from Germany see when they travel here. I became part of a community. A community that has given me a warm welcome. It showed me things and took me to events I would never have seen as a tourist. And who showed me what “Ubuntu” means.