Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been lucky to develop a successful career in supply chain and now work with adidas in Amsterdam. In parallel, doing my part to make a difference in the world and other people’s lives has always been important to me.
My volunteering has focused on the schooling of children in Kenya. However, a number of years ago two children drowned in the river next to the school because they didn’t know how to swim. Other kids watched it happening but couldn’t help. They didn’t know how to swim either.
Because the kids are living next to a river, we as outsiders assumed they could swim – it is something that we took for granted. It was a turning point for me.
I realized how much value ‘less academic’ skills, such as sport, can add to a child’s life. They can even save it.
Turning sports skills into life skills
It was time to look at incorporating sports more and more into the educational volunteering program I was involved in and give space for the valuable skills that sport can teach.
There are the tangible skills like being able to swim. But also, life skills such as teamwork, leadership, competition, sportsmanship, responsibility, commitment and more. These are the skills that will set them up for the future.
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Inspiring others to make a difference
My passion for volunteering has influenced my team at work who were keen to see what they could do to help at home or abroad. However, some questioned their skills for such tasks – they aren’t engineers who can help design or build a school, they aren’t language or mathematics teachers. What they are is a bunch of people who are mad about sports, about playing as a team and helping others to improve.
Locally our adidas Fund recognized the interest within our company to do more in our communities and offered the opportunity to be a gym teacher volunteer for a day. We go to a local school and do sports together. It seems like a small gesture but the impact that it has on the kids and, maybe unexpectedly, on us is something we cannot underestimate.
Children are motivated by the outside influence we bring, they are excited, they are eager to learn, they want to impress, while we come away feeling like we’ve made a small but sometimes important difference to their day.
Through sport, we have the power to change lives
I still go back to that same school in Kenya on a regular basis. Swimming is now part of the curriculum and the river is no longer such a threat. The kids there are more confident and comfortable about leveraging their sports and academic learnings in their daily lives. They support and encourage each other to take on new challenges, try new things and follow the lead of the volunteers by moving outside their comfort zones.
We’re not all teachers, architects and engineers but once you have a passion to share you’ll be able to make a difference in the world of volunteering.
Have you been able to share your love of sport with disadvantaged groups?