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What do sport and volunteerism have in common?

Copyrights: IMBEWU

What do sport and volunteerism have in common?

"The enjoyment one receives when playing football, tennis or cricket doesn’t know any barriers of culture, gender, age or level."

The importance of volunteering has been discussed and demonstrated enough times, so proving its relevance to our organisation’s work won’t be the subject of this paper. Volunteering helps, drives and is essential to the development sector. The authentic spirit of altruism as well as the capabilities the volunteer builds through the activities are what keeps some programmes going.

If one can be easily convinced of the benefits provided by volunteer activities, what about volunteering through sports activities? Our organisation, IMBEWU, promotes development and psychosocial education through sport, which is a hinge part of our projects in South Africa. Hence we pose the following questions: what do sports and volunteerism have in common? What can sports teach us about our approach to volunteerism?

IMBEWU operates in three areas of intervention: education, sports and the arts, and cultural exchanges. Our volunteering programme focusses especially on the promotion of exchanges between Swiss and South African youth and articulates around sport, which can show us some important aspects of the volunteering spirit. First of all, sport teaches respect. You can’t do any sports or volunteering work without respecting your coach and your teammates. You also need to know how to interact with different kinds of people, as some be in a leader role or a follower, and you might be playing with people from the same or from dissimilar cultural backgrounds.

Respect is great, but team spirit is even better. It is a key value of sport and relevant to all our project in South Africa. And team spirit is also a key value when it comes to international cooperation, for it is based on mutual aid and collaboration. If the world was a huge football pitch, wouldn’t it be great to be able to make some exchanges between players from the most fortunate teams and the less fortunate ones? In fact, team spirit is the foundation of cooperation.

From team spirit ensues equality. We might not be equal in terms of our sports' performances, but sport includes everyone. The enjoyment one receives when playing football, tennis or cricket doesn’t know any barriers of culture, gender, age or level.

Challenges a sportsman faces are quite the same as those faced by volunteers: flexibility, perseverance, passion, ability to working tirelessly to achieve success are all lessons learnt while playing sports that also apply to volunteer work.


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Albane Dorsaz, Project Assistant, IMBEWU


Monday, December 5, 2016 - 17:32

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