Tuesday, November 01, 2005

SPORTING CHANCE INTERNATIONAL : Loving Football And Making A Difference

The aims of Sporting Chance International (SCI) are simple:

"To develop a sense of self worth and provide opportunities for personal development where they are few and under resourced

"To enhance the education and quality of life of the under privileged

"To encourage and facilitate participation by individuals in sport who would otherwise have no opportunity to do so

"To freely supply and distribute sports equipment for young people in developing countries

"To encourage and support teachers and coaches who struggle with few resources

"To provide opportunities for voluntary service overseas with particular involvement in sport

"To develop and establish a network of contacts who will support and sustain these objectives

They do all of this, as the name suggests, through a sports centered operation. And for SCI, Football is a key sport of the charity.

In August of 1998 Alan and Lesley Thomas traveled to Kenya following a vision Alan had been seeing for quite some months. In January of 1998 Alan accepted an invitation to go to Kenya to coach football in a suburb of Nairobi called Umoja. From that time on he had his vision. This husband and wife team realizing the great need of a "charity dedicated to providing opportunities for sport at its heart.' Since then both Alan and Lesley have put a great deal of enthusiasm into their efforts that have made SCI a key successful operation today. SCI operates throughout Kenya today and in 2001 SCI visited Malawi, with the idea of opening up new countries to SCI's vision.

Alan's idea was simple - to gather up sets of unused kit to be distributed overseas. As the SCI web site states: "It is basically recycling!" The organization urges clubs and schools to donate kits they no longer use, so that those kits can find a new home.

SCI operates in a suburb of NAIROBI called where most of the population live in tenement blocks of flats. In Umoja there are youth teams of various ages. The organization also operates in Kakuru, Mombassa and Garissa, all of which are in Kenya. Garissa is in a semi-desert region near the Somali border.

And as I said before, SCI also operates in Malawi now. Its operation is in the area in the southern part of that country known as Mikolongwe. Mikolongwe is an area about the size of West Cornwall, (Yanks like me will just have to refer to a map of England for that one) with a population of about 30,000. There ten teams play in a newly formed league. Currently only one team in the league in Mikolongwe have kit. SCI's goal is to supply the whole league, and it is looking for help to do this.

Whe the team play, the whole village comes out to watch. And when the crowds gather this presents an opportunity to talk about social issues, such as AIDS and crime.

Before SCI came to the area no one had any kit. And to play a game with a real football was a rare occurrence.

In addition to football SCI presents the youth in the area where it operates to play rugby and other sports as well.

SCI's web site says that it is "keen to gain the endorsement of the rugby world." In September 2002 SCI began working in partnership with SOS Romania Rugby. SCI collects kit from schools and clubs in Devon & Cornwall. St. Ives RFC and Cornwall RFC have become supporters of the rugby program and SCI is looking for other potential participants to support the cause of youth rugby in Eastern Europe.

Basketballs are given to schools and clubs in Kenya, Somalia and Romania, irrespective of religion, gender or ability. In Romania it was a disabled team.

SCI has delivered many volleyballs and netballs to schools in Kenya.

In addition to providing sports equipment to youth leagues, SCI has engaged in community development projects as well. In 1999 SCI made its first visit to the township of Garissa in the remote semi-desert area in the East Kenya. Kit was distributed in some of the village communities, one of which was Madoga. In Madoga, mostly mud and wooden huts house the population of approximately 3000. The village of Madoga lacked its own supply of fresh water because the old well had become contaminated over a year prior to that time and gone salty. So, working with International Aid Sweden and Life Ministries, SCI was able to help fund a water tank at the nearby Life Frontier School. Now, a generator pumps thousands of litres of water into a tank providing a supply of water from a tap for a few hours. An added benefit is that the tap also provides a welcome break to the girls and women who had to spend hours each day pumping for water at the old well. The water is also used to make bricks to construct huts that are a great improvement over some of the homes that had been made of sticks and fertilizer bags and could not provide proper shelter heat and winds of he region.

This was one of several projects that fulfilled SCI's long held vision to give help beyond sporting activity.

In 2001 SCI became involved in a community recycling business on the outskirts of Nairobi. Kenya has no official refuse collection and many of the streets are littered with a great deal of rubbish. In Nairobi Life Reformation International been using a wheelbarrow to collect rubbish from about 400 customers. Refuse was recycled into compost and the process took about three months. The compost was then sold to the local coffee plantations. While this was a very effective recycling process for the most part, Life Reformation International was in great need of a vehicle with which to collect the refuse. SCI, in partnership with the Biffa Company of England and Network Christian Trust, a truck (completely restored; sand blasted, re-sprayed and serviced) has sent to Kenya. Unfortunately SCI reports "Kenyan authorities are currently unwilling to release the truck from the docks at Mombassa, in spite of a number of attempts by SCI and its Kenyan partners to solve the problem."

Recognizing that a "key element in the chain of distribution of kit is finding accountable people who can be trusted." SCI spent time with the directors of Life Reformation International (LRI) and agreed to create a partnership between the two organizations in order to run the Youth Sporting Program. LRI has the responsibility of identifying beneficiaries and distributing sets of kit and equipment. SCI believes that "such a relationship with a non government organisation is a vital one."

SCI has several other partners that are NGOs and other organizations, such as DHL which SCI identifies as its key sponsor.

SCI has attempted to share its vision with others through a professional video, documenting the work of the organization during one of the trips. Of Trustee, Ivor Kneller who filmed and Directed the video entitled "Making a Difference."

Making a Difference has been widely used by schools, church groups and other organisations. It is on sale by SCI, and the detail for its purchase may be found at its web site.

I have not mentioned all that SCI is doing and of course there is much more to see at SCI's web site. So, whether you call it Football (or Soccer if your are from those rebellious colonies) pay a visit to Sporting Chance International. Maybe you'll catch Alan Thomas' vision.

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