Three years ago, I got the chance to harness the power of sport and help change lives through volunteering for PJB (Promo Jeune Basket) in Goma, DRC.

PJB was founded by Dario Merlo in 2006 to use basketball as a tool to develop youth and communities into the future of this nation. From its humble beginnings, PJB has grown into a full-time basketball academy that serves over 1,000 young people throughout the year.

1. Move out of your comfort zone

Having worked as a physiotherapist with a wheelchair basketball team in Germany, I went to Goma with a focus on coaching the wheelchair basketball team and teaching coaches some basic physiotherapy treatments, first aid and injury prevention exercises.

A group of African kids working out with two volunteers from adidas. volunteering, adidas, leadership, leadership skills
Train the trainers took on a whole new meaning in Goma as I was privileged to help expand the coaches’ exercise knowledge.

Working with them made me realize how many things we take for granted and, more importantly, how sport as a universal language breaks down all cultural and sometimes even physical barriers. Volunteering opens your mind in so many ways. You witness new cultures, new ways of thinking, and become more aware of the problems the less fortunate face on a daily basis.

2. Learn to trust

A fundraising poster from adidas. volunteering, adidas, leadership, leadership skills
A poster in one of our office gyms encouraging colleagues to join our fundraising effort.

Good leaders never stop learning, and the new learning I took from my volunteering time was to trust your team.

Dario’s dream for Goma went beyond basketball, and in September 2017 KIS (KIVU INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL) opened its doors, providing international standard education to local children. Reflecting on the needs and interest of some of the coaches in physiotherapy and the importance of a good training environment, I started to think about how I could best equip a gym and a medical facility at KIS.

This is where trust came in to play. Knowing that there wouldn’t be enough funding for expensive equipment, I needed to think outside the box. A friend told me about Technogym’s ‘Let’s move for a better world’ initiative and they agreed to run a special adidas ‘Let’s move for KIS’ campaign. It was then down to trusting my HR colleagues back in UK and Italy to organize a challenge that would raise enough funding to secure the equipment. Of course, they didn’t let me down.

3. Network, network, network

There’s an African proverb that PJB lives by: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

That’s what I remembered when the initial plan of shipping the equipment to Goma failed. Some unforeseen roadblocks came up: funding termination together with unforeseen additional costs created a snowball effect of problems, and I became dejected. But I didn’t want to give up on this vision!

Group picture of an African wheelchair basketball team cheering. A poster in one of our office gyms encouraging colleagues to join our fundraising effort.
Let your colleagues, teammates, drive and boldness take you far!

I exercised my grit and persisted. I came at it from all angles: emails, phone calls and lots of persuasive conversations to get the container out of Belgium and into Goma. Going that extra mile needed support and by developing a strong network of varied resources I was able to overcome the obstacles that presented themselves.

Resourcefulness is a high-quality trait that’s frequently observable in powerful leaders.

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by Tharaphi Htut 05.09.2018
I am more interest to participate in networking, activities that support to others who need help.
by Antoine Frisch 14.10.2018

Sport is love and especially basketball's values and fraternity. I'm the happiest if you can count on me for the next session.

#human #volunteering #fromstrasbourgtoadidas
by Peter Nelson 21.10.2018
I think that the concept of sports as a universal language to break down cultural and physical barriers is spot on. Having been involved in sporting programs previously that engages and integrates communities, I would love to join any volunteering opportunity that may arise in the future.