Dear partners, supporters and friends of PlayHandball,

On behalf of PlayHandball and the whole team, I would like to thank you very much for your support, cooperation and interest in our work. This year for us, as for many others, went differently than planned. With the outbreak of the pandemic, many activities in our project countries South Africa and Kenya had to be stopped abruptly. At the beginning of April, all German volunteers had to leave their host countries with a heavy heart and return home within a month. At short notice, all sports group activities were stopped and schools were partially or even completely closed. Social life was at a standstill and the focus was solely on health. For us, as for many others, the extent of this was beyond our comprehension, and at the time we still hoped that everything would be over by September. But this was not the case.

Even though we were not able to implement all the planned activities this year – such as the school league for the Western Cape, the tournaments in our partner communities of Juja, Machakos and Kisumu in Kenya, the after-school programs at more schools in the Eastern Cape or the SuperCup in South Africa – and there are still no volunteers to support us in the countries, 2020 will not pass without positive progress.

For example, the three-year Erasmus+ project Global Sport for Development and Peace Knowledge Collaborative, or short GloKnoCo, kicked off earlier this year with the first intensive course for students from three universities. The project aims to support and renew teaching in the fields of sport and development, broaden and deepen international contacts, and bring academia closer to the praxis. Three universities from Paderborn (D), Brighton (GB) and Olomouc (CZ) cooperate with NGOs, and among them PlayHandball.

After the outbreak of the pandemic, we launched a Corona aid program in our partner countries South Africa and Kenya. The aim was to support needy families of handball children in our partner communities with aid packages consisting of food, hygiene products and an information flyer with fitness exercises for the whole family. In total, we distributed 168 Corona aid packages in South Africa and Kenya and supported a porridge kitchen in Seawinds/ Lavender Hill (SA) where between 150 to 200 people received a hot porridge meal daily. We are very grateful for the many donations that made this short-term humanitarian aid possible.

Handball is about community and this is more evident than ever in times of the global corona crisis. Therefore, we were also very happy about the commitment of TVB Stuttgart, which has been supporting PlayHandball since this year as part of its social initiative “Die Blaue Brücke”. This also brought us into contact with “Share & Play” and its founder, the former Spanish national player Carlos Prieto. Among others, Martin Berger not only started his handball world tour, but also helps us with his initiative “Handball Inspires” and inspires us at the same time with handball stories from his journey. Another great partner we could win is “One Team”. The sports development organisation in Germany supports sports development projects worldwide and since this year also our projects with focus on Kenya. We have also been able to intensify our partnerships with associations such as with the Schleswig-Holstein Handball Association, the Bavarian Handball Association and the Western Cape Handball Association in South Africa. We entered into talks with “Learn Handball” and worked out a concept for future international youth encounters with “H.I.T. – Help-in-Time” and the “German Sports Youth”. Overall, I can conclude that in 2020, many important steps were taken for our programs to support handball youth in our African partner countries.

The new normal of “online” has also enabled many new things in 2021.  In theory, there are no limits in the digital world, whether to meet, learn, or for anything else. But these opportunities are not simply available to everyone, especially the majority of children in disadvantaged areas in South Africa or Kenya. There is no laptop or smartphone in every household or the financial means to afford data volume are not available. It is therefore important to look for solutions to overcome such hurdles so that everyone or as many as possible can participate.  For example, we included simple informational flyers in our Corona aid packages, which also included small games and fitness exercises for the whole family to keep kids moving even in “lockdown.”

Despite this challenge, especially in the areas where we at PlayHandball work, we see great potential in digitalisation promoting handball for more children and young people in disadvantaged and remote areas. We reached the first milestone with our online workshops in September. Around 30 participants from 4 different African countries and great speakers from 3 different continents took part in the four courses. We were able to achieve another form of networking and dialog across national borders with the following online talks “Handball without Borders” in December. In three rounds of talks, guests from Africa and Europe who are active and involved in handball discussed the current situation, solutions, opportunities and experiences together. These online talks can still be seen on our YouTube channel PlayHandball1.

For us athletes, however, digitisation is only a means to an end. Ultimately, it’s about playing together, training together, and being actively involved, whether as a player, coach, teacher, helper, or fan. The sporting interaction and the experience promote social skills and feelings of self-esteem in children and young people. Regular training and the team provide support and a sense of belonging, which is important for children from troubled social backgrounds. And, in these uncertain times, even more important than ever. That is why it is a key concern for us to continue to accompany and support our partners in the local communities. We remain true to our goal of educating local youth organisations and coaches in Africa with the knowledge and skills to use handball as a development tool for children and youth, empowering them to create a sustainable future for themselves and their communities.

We are grateful for all the support, whether financial, material or mental, through motivating words or silent interest, which we have received this year. The community around PlayHandball is growing. And this interest and also the need from the “communities” motivate us to continue every day and to do more together with your help.

No one can really foresee how long this pandemic will limit us. However, sport also teaches endurance and mental strength. Therefore, we stay positive and look ahead.

For the coming year, we have done a lot of groundwork in this time of crisis. In 2021, we will continue to expand the training program for social youth handball coaches, creating more opportunities for sporting activity and social interaction for children and young people, promoting understanding between peoples and social classes through youth exchange and encounter programs, as well as strengthening education for sustainable development through interdisciplinary concepts such as our environmental games.

With your support, we are looking forward to continuing on this exciting path.

I wish you health, vitality and – hopefully above all – many hours spent together without social distance in 2021.

With sportive regards
Nicola Scholl

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