The Rob Stephenson Trust has recently supported forty five volunteers travelling to one of South Africa’s poorest regions to expand the work of the multi-award winning Bambisanani Partnership charity.  Students and staff from St. Mary’s School, Menston, The University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University developed existing programmes and introduced new ones based on using sport as a catalyst to promote education, health, global citizenship and leadership in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Over a four week period the volunteers taught, coached and mentored hundreds of South African students in a variety of Bambisanani programmes which included Sports Leadership courses, cycling initiatives, Sports Festivals and other curriculum areasThe Rob Stephenson Trust provided the funding for all the equipment for two specific Bambisanani projects, namely the ‘Leadership through Sport’ initiative and the ‘Cycling for Success’ programme.

Week 1 saw students from both universities deliver the highly acclaimed ‘Cycling for Success’ programme at Mnyakanya High School. Now in its third year the programme teaches students how to ride and maintain bikes. This skill is often life changing for the students, as many live as far as 2 hours away from the school which creates a barrier to their education. This year, as a result of the project 35 children learnt to ride bikes, 6 children trained as bike mechanics and 20 bikes plus spare parts and tools were shipped to the school for continued use by the students.

In Week 2 students delivered the Leadership through Sport programme as well as additional curriculum lessons and sports activities to children from four primary schools in the Eshowe area: Gratton, Holy Childhood, John Wesley and Little Flower. This proved to be a remarkable success with no less than 175 children gaining the award.

Alan Stuart, Principal of the John Wesley School, praised the impact of the programme:  “…you have made an incredible impact on the lives of so many youngsters of Eshowe. Your efforts could be described as tireless, positive, enthusiastic, meticulously planned, generous and highly professional. We look forward to similar interactions in the coming years.”

Students from Mnyakanya also valued the experience:

We learnt a lot of things from our UK friends. We learnt many sports games like hockey, rounders, rugby and tennis; we also learnt how to ride and fix the bikes. This was all a wonderful experience because we are now able to help anyone who has a problem with his or her bike even in the community.” Melokuhle Mdlalose

“I am so excited about what we learnt from the UK students this year. I am very proud that I can now play different types of sports that I have previously only seen on a television. I can now also fix bikes for myself and for my friends.” Asanda Gabela

 “Our visitors from St. Mary’s and the two Leeds universities were so kind, funny and patient with us. We were like brothers and sisters when we were together. We learnt so much from their discipline and about the importance of listening to others. I never thought that one day I would be able to ride and fix the bike, but today I’m proud that I have all those skills. I wish to thank the Bambisanani Partnership for changing my life.” Magwaza Sakhile

University of Leeds lecturer and Bambisanani trustee Andrew Lockwood said: “We work with hundreds of South African students with the aim of raising aspirations through leadership and activity. It is a student led project and once in a lifetime adventure, where the students gain a range of skills and experiences which set them apart for life after university.  The programme not only helps the South African students to develop new skills, but it also increases our students’ skills. This year, over the course of the project, our students demonstrated an average improvement of 31% in 18 key employability skills. This will help them to stand out from the crowd once they leave university, making them attractive to top employers. Not only this, it is an experience they will never forget”

Founder and Chair of the Bambisanani Partnership charity David Geldart was full of praise for all involved in the visit: “The students and their teachers and lecturers have made a real difference to so many people’s lives through their selfless volunteering in South Africa this summer. In doing so they have learned and grown so much. Creating ‘two way learning’ is a fundamental element of what we are about. The commitment of St. Mary’s School, the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University to the partnership and indeed global learning is simply phenomenal. The Rob Stephenson Trust has enabled us to make a real difference in the world and deserve great credit and our sincere thanks. Based on ‘working together and learning together’ we have ambitious plans for the year ahead and are looking forward to expanding our programmes.”