Giesa and Steffi Klaunig are two former Handball Bundesliga players at HSG Blomberg-Lippe. They are currently travelling around the world and have also made a six-week stopover at PLAY HANDBALL. In the following interview with the HSG, they report on their experiences.
HSG: As we know, you are currently on a longer journey. What made you decide to spend a longer time in South Africa?
KLAUNIG: The idea of “Nico” is now 10 years old, but it really started in 2014. At that time I (Steffi) finished my studies and was already thinking about a year as a volunteer in South Africa. But due to other obligations I didn’t do that at that time. Well, a few years later, while planning our trip around the world, I had the idea to support the handball project again. We wanted, at least for a short time, to get to know real life – real people with different values, different cultures and different attitudes. In addition, we wanted to “do something good”. Helping where help is needed. And what can we two do better than to play handball?
HSG: How long have you been in the project and how do you live there?
KLAUNIG: We’re staying for six weeks in a suburb of Cape Town called “Atlantis”. Here we live in a nice host family. A young mother with two daughters (17 and 6 years) and her 19-year-old brother. The accommodation is simple. The family sleeps in a room with four people, as they have provided us with a bedroom. The family’s financial means are also manageable. The area is very criminal, so the kids cannot play on the street and we are not allowed to leave the house alone.
HSG: Do you still feel comfortable?
KLAUNIG: Yes, we feel safe, because the people around us take great care that we are doing well. And it is exactly what we want to experience. Let’s get out of our own comfort zone, overcome our own limits and see how some (certainly not all) people live at the other end of the world. With how much – or little – they are satisfied and happy. With what cordiality and openness they meet people without ever complaining. We would wish that from one or the other German citizen also occasionally.
HSG: And during the day you are used as handball coaches at primary schools?
KLAUNIG: Exactly. Hardly anyone here knows the sport, so we try to teach the children and teenagers as well as the teachers about our great sport and to inspire them. Our goal is not only to implement the sport of handball in schools, but also to continue playing handball beyond our stay.
HSG: Is that the vision of Nicola Scholl and PLAY HANDBALL?
KLAUNIG: Among other things. Starting out as a volunteer in a sports development project, Nicola came up with the idea of improving sports structures in South Africa, using handball as a team sport and thus overcoming cultural boundaries. The sport has a positive influence on the local communities and the personal development of the children and young people.
HSG: And how is this implemented?
KLAUNIG: PLAY HANDBALL is a sports and development organisation that supports local partner organisations in disadvantaged areas through coaching workshops and the development of sports activities. The volunteers (including us) train girls and boys in sports lessons and in the afternoon area of a local school. They try to build up handball specific competences and use them to promote social competence. They give the pupils self-confidence, skills and knowledge and promote a sports environment in which everyone can feel comfortable and no child is excluded.
To bring children of all skin colours and genders together, Nicola and her team also regularly organise tournaments where the teams don’t just play handball. At the same time, the opportunity is taken to raise awareness of sustainability issues such as recycling and waste prevention. Sport is also a wonderful way to communicate such issues.
HSG: That sounds very versatile!
KLAUNIG: So is it. And a mammoth task. The structures are different at every school and in every region. In addition, the mentality of the people involved is different. But Nicola has managed to establish a small school league. She works meticulously to anchor handball in the school’s curriculum and creates training sessions for coaches and teachers to make it easier for them to teach handball. We have great respect for the work the PLAY HANDBALL team does every day. They sacrificially try to promote sport in South Africa to give children an alternative and another constant in life off the streets. We are only six weeks part of this great project and perhaps – if at all – we can only get a small stone rolling, but the PLAY HANDBALL team moves far more in the children. They are the ones who give the children and young people a perspective!
HSG: That’s great! Thank you very much both for the short insight. A praiseworthy and noteworthy project, which we would like to support as well.
KLAUNIG: Many thanks and greetings to all HSG fans!