Students help to improve lives on expedition to Kenya

Issue date: 05 October 2011

Students and staff from the University of the West of England have been improving the lives of young people in Tsavo, Kenya through community projects and coaching sports as part of a four week volunteering expedition.

The team, which included colleagues from the University of Bristol and Filton College, worked on building and improving local sports pitches and facilities, and helped to train young athletes and their teachers.

The Sport Development Expedition, (SDX), organised by Camps International as part of Umoja, the Bristol Kenya partnership and funded by UWE's Better Together Fund, focused on engaging young people through sport to generate benefits of teamwork, confidence, friendship, pride and achievement.

The SDX team of 13 students and staff levelled out the community football pitch and dug drainage ditches to stop it and community buildings being damaged in the wet season. They cemented in the metal goal posts, dug a long jump pit and cleared and marked out the netball and volley ball pitch. They then held regular sports training sessions with the local children, provided coaching resources and tips for best practice to their teachers, and organised a fun run and sports festival. They also introduced the game of cricket to the local children.

Year Two, UWE English and Journalism student, Ben Brown, 20, said, “We achieved a great deal. I am very proud of our work and I really feel that we made a difference. I met some inspiring people and had an experience I will never forget. I think it will change the way I am - I can't complain about anything now, knowing that there are people out there with nothing, yet they constantly have a smile on their faces.”

Bristol is acting as host for the Kenyan Olympic team in preparations for London 2012. The Bristol-Kenya Partnership was set up as a charity which will create and manage initiatives and events inspired by Olympic ideals, to foster sporting, educational, cultural and commercial links between Bristol and Kenya. Umoja is a Swahili word that means “togetherness”.

The SDX programme is supported by the RELAYS (Regional Educational Legacy in Arts and Youth Sport) project and offers Higher Education students the opportunity to volunteer as leaders and coaches. RELAYS is an innovative and ambitious project in the South West which aims to inspire young people and their communities to participate in cultural and sporting activities, engaging the region with the London 2012 Games and creating a lasting legacy.

Kim Chang, London 2012 Business Lead for the South West (Research Business and Innovation) said, “I know all the students improved their leadership, problem solving and organisational skills, skills which will help them in their future studies or attractiveness to an employer. All the students had to raise the funds for the expedition and we are grateful to the UWE Better Together Fund for assisting the students to kick-start their fundraising efforts. This inaugural SDX was the first expedition that the three institutions from the Bristol-Kenya Partnership have been involved in, but plans are well underway for SDX 2012.”

UWE's Better Together Fund is supported entirely by donations to the University and makes grants to support student hardship, community projects, and academic and extra-curricular activities. These grants are designed to help staff and students reach out to the local and global community and reach their full potential.

Visit the team's blog to find out more about their experience.

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