My motivation in the last years was to experience handball and the culture in other countries, to learn new things about handball and to support together with people on the spot. I had heard about PlayHandball during my studies when the idea came up to go abroad and gain more experience with handball. It was only realized after my master’s degree in the context of my handball world tour. Thanks to Corona, this “only” turned into a trip to Europe and Africa in the spirit of handball. From Norway, to Denmark via France and Spain to Portugal, I was able to get to know European handball better in about 14 months. Afterwards, my journey took me to Kenya and South Africa for PlayHandball for another 4 months. In the following I report about my insight of my experiences at PlayHandball in Kenya and South Africa.
In the middle of February 2022 I went to Nairobi – Kenya, to the already known Carol Nange – Kenya responsible person of PlayHandball. Carol I could already receive for a week in December 2019 in Berlin and accordingly I was looking forward to the reunion. She had visited Germany at that time to meet the partners of PlayHandball – so similar to me now. In Nairobi, we held a three-day workshop together with coaches from all over Kenya. Afterwards, I got to coach the national deaf team. Here it was super exciting for me to work with visual, rather than acoustic signals; a whistle had no effect, but a bouncing motion as a prelude did. Of course, there was also time to visit the national park and get to know the city. There especially Mathare – slum in Nairobi – gave me a lot to think about, as it was my first experience with such poverty and for me uninhabitable circumstances. I was all the more impressed when I understood the path the Nange family (raised in Mathare) has taken and where they are now.
After Nairobi, I visited the partner organization PendoAmani in Juja and the German volunteer on site, Simon Gorholt. I moved in with his host family and supported his project work in schools with his Kenyan counterpart Panfied. A special highlight was a big school tournament, where we drew the fields with chalk beforehand. Not the last time! Afterwards I took the opportunity to also experience the beautiful nature in Kenya. Together we did a guided Mount Kenya hike. After the 5-day hike, we headed to the Masai Mara for another highlight. At PlayHandball’s partner school in Narok, together with Brian (also TYCE youth coach), Victor (PlayHandball Coaches Coordinator) and Panfied, we hosted a week-long handball camp in a Masai school. Handball was learned from scratch, creativity was encouraged in small artistic performances, and in between we were part of a traditional slaughter of a goat. On the penultimate day I was amazed. When Simon and I arrived for the early morning training, the goals were already set up on the field and the kids were playing quite decent handball in self-organized teams. After the camp we visited the Massai Mara for three days. A safari I will never forget. Afterwards we parted ways and Simon went back to Juja and I visited PlayHandball’s partner project “Empower Girls Plus” – led by Ruth Moodie – in Kisumu. It was there that I realized how important sports are for after-school activities and youth development. Ruth and Movet in Kisumu played handball with the kids every day on a large open green space. At first I wondered how it was possible to practice handball 3-4 hours a day. Until I noticed that this was a pure “ball field” mentality. Better to go home right after school with the ball in hand and at sunset than to go off the rails due to boredom. In Kisumu we then visited the aid projects of Empower Girls Plus and supported an orphanage with food for the coming month. At the final big tournament, we didn’t just draw the lines with chalk, but quickly built our own goals out of wooden beams. Afterwards I went back to Nairobi via the cities of Nakuru and Naivasha and from there to South Africa.
In Cape Town, I supported the German volunteers on site during the first days. So I could help directly with the training at the local schools and also led a training of the handball club CapeStars. On the weekend, PlayHandball ZA organized a two-day coaching workshop – led by Nicola and me – for the Western Cape. Here I was able to learn a lot from Nicola about the introduction of handball. When there was no handball on the agenda, Nicola led me on adventurous trails up Table Mountain and showed me the beautiful beaches of the Cape. Afterwards, I went to the rural communities (Lambert’s Bay, Graafwater, Darling, Piketberg) to join the other volunteers in South Africa. Several training sessions in the schools and workshops with the teachers were conducted before heading to the Cederberg Mountains for a true natural spectacle of hiking and climbing. Afterwards I was on my own for a couple of weeks. I used this handball-free time to explore the Garden Route and to start a road trip from Johannesburg with my family.
During the last 2 weeks in Johannesburg, there were again many training sessions in the schools and workshops with the teachers. The highlight was a coaching workshop at the German School Johannesburg. Here I was hosted by the PlayHandball partner “Sport Initiative Projects”. Bongani (head of the organization) and Linah (also a TYCE volunteer) accompanied me in a varied week in Gauteng. A bonus for the participants of the three workshops in Kenya and South Africa was that they were all provided with the Learn.Handball app, which they can then use to assist them in their training planning after my visit.
After 118 days in Africa, my plane headed back to Germany. Highlights of this trip are of course:
… the handball challenges. The situation of chasing children without shoes on stony sand courts an old handball and throwing it into an improvised goal made of little hats showed once again the power of sport. In addition, the difficulties of circumventing language barriers and still doing methodical handball training are incomparably higher than in Germany. Because how do you keep 30 kids with 4 handballs busy in 30 minutes of training time in a meaningful and developing way?
… the breathtaking nature. Be it the mountain ranges of the 12 Apostles in Cape Town, the sunrise at Mount Kenya with almost 5000 m, the Cederberg Mountains or the many beautiful beaches at the Atlantic or Indian Ocean.
… to be a small part of the life of the people who invest so much energy and love in the development and spreading of the sport of handball. And doing this on a voluntary basis alongside all the day-to-day and structural challenges in Africa. I very much hope to use this opportunity to motivate more coaches from Germany and Europe to visit these countries and the continent in the spirit of handball. You exchange a lot of knowledge and your own resources for unforgettable moments and experiences.
Thank you Play Handball!