Reflection on PS4L (March 2019 / May-June 2019) By Lieselot Van den Broeck

My journey started on the 16th of February, now almost 4 months ago. Two friendly faces picked me, Jana and Charlotte up at the airport and we drove to Carolyn and Kevin to stay there for 2 weeks. Everything was so overwhelming and new that it was very nice to have a friendly face to welcome us and treat us like daughters. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to chill. At our first full day in Cape Town, we already had to go to a meeting in the city to meet the rest of our CASO students and teachers. The following next two weeks, we did the intensive program of the organisation I went with. This program was, apart from being a bit chaotic and very busy, also very interesting because it was the first time I came in contact with PS4L.

This organisation has nothing to do with my profession as a nurse at first sight, but I was immediately intrigued. During the IP(Intensive Program), we could make a PE class where we tried to implement some health-related issues with the other European students. I made a lesson plan that combined sports education with hand hygiene, an important tool to prevent bacteria and diseases. I had so much fun that I actually didn’t want to go away so soon. I want to be a social nurse in the near future, and after a conversation, with Carolyn, I realised that I could maybe develop these skills better with PS4L than in the hospital in George working on a hand hygiene project.

The following month with PS4L was very interesting to me. Together with coach Faiza I assisted her with PE classes and got to know the kids and how everything works here in South Africa. After a few days, I heard about the afterschool programs. At FactretonPrimary School, the school where I did my internship, children could subscribe for afterschool classes like running, soccer, hockey, yoga and so on. I thought this was a very nice and positive initiative and I wanted to help where I could. I am not the biggest sport enthusiastic nor am I super fit, so it was difficult for me to find my place at the beginning. Until I saw that the children could also subscribe to chess. When Faiza told me that she doesn’t know the rules of chess very well and that she was still looking for someone to help her with this, I was very glad. Not only is a chess a sport in many ways(1) so it fits in with PlaySport4Life, healthwise it also has a lot of benefits, so it fits with my job as a future nurse:

  • Chess helps you concentrate
  • Chess develops problem-solving skills
  • Chess improves your memory
  • Playing chess uses both sides of your brain
  • Playing chess can raise your IQ
  • Chess teaches planning and fore sight
  • Chess helps with strategy thinking
  • Chess improves your attention span
  • Chess improves reading skills
  • Chess increases creativity

So even if chess is not the most athletic or strength building sport, it follows the philosophy of what Play Sport4Life is all about: to bring people and communities together and promote health and well-being (by supporting educational advancement and teaching life skills (2). On a personal level, I also taught a lot about my organizing and creative skills in a foreign country.

(1)“Ten Reasons why Chess is a Sport”:https://londonchessconference.com/a-question-of-sport/ (2) https://www.playsport4life.org/about/(27/05)

First, I had to find enough chess boards to teach the kids. I even made one myself that we could use at Factreton. Secondly, I had to teach coach Faiza what chess was all about and the basic rules. Then I had to find out what the best way was to teach the children. It is not the easiest game so that was a hard task. How do I make it as clear as possible? How do I make it fun as well? how do I teach these kids the importance of chess? The lessons I gave were very educational, not only for the kids but also for me

Unfortunately, my time at Factretonwas short. I only had two weeks here and during one of them, the children had assessments. I still helped Faiza with the PE classes and could even organize my own active games. I enjoyed this a lot and it made me realize that sport really has a much bigger impact on children than I realized. Not being a sportsperson myself, I am glad that PS4L gave me the insight that it’s crucial to get enough physical activity in your life, for it is a vehicle for a healthier lifestyle. In this short amount of time, a learned so much about the less advantaged side of South Africa with its own problems and issues it must deal with. On the other hand, I also came in contact with the incredible warmth and good intentions of the people surrounding these communities, like the team from Play Sport4Life and the incredible principal of Factreton.

The next following two weeks PS4L gave us an incredible opportunity: to help organize a big event for children of all ages in our neighbourhood. This Holidayprogramwas going to be at two different locations, with all kinds of sports for children of all ages. The European students and I got the chance to organize everything and we got all the freedom we wanted. This was a big responsibility and we tried to plan everything the best we could. The first day of the Holiday Program was one big chaos. Even though we tried to plan everything and thought we had a nice program, we were not prepared for the enormous show-up nor the chaos that always goes with big events like this. Luckily, we had some experienced coaches with us who helped us (for example by sending the kids under 5 years old home) and we ended up having a very nice Holiday Program, with a lot of educational and unforgettable moments.

Me on the first day of the Holiday program vs. Me on the last day

After the holiday program, my time with PS4L was done. I said goodbye to everybody, taking with me only good and educational moments. Even though it was very tiring to work with kids in a totally different environment with a boiling hot sun, I learned a lot and was very glad I opted for PS4L instead of the hand hygiene project in George. The following two months I did my internship as a nurse in George. This was also an incredible experience and I am grateful I got to do this. I worked as a nurse at ICU and Trauma, joined an organisation in the townships, followed classes with the third-year nursing students and went to some schools for children with disabilities. My few weeks in George were not only a quiet welcoming from the busy Cape Town with amazing nature and nice people, but it was also the place where I realised that I really want to become a nurse in the near future. Even though the hospital was most of the time very chaotic and different from what I am used to in Belgium, my care and devotion for patients and nursing didn’t decrease.

In the middle of May, my roommates and I had to come back to Cape Town because of the CASO symposium. Because of some very unfortunate events that happened right before the symposium, I had to change my plans and decided not to go back to George. Luckily PS4L took me back in and I could work here for a one more month. Apart from going back to Factreton to give PE classes, I could also pick up teaching chess. With being a bit longer in South Africa, now better understanding the whole culture and structure, I felt more confident in making contact with the kids. Not only did I teach them chess in small groups as I did before, but I also played chess with them during play time, which was always very busy and hectic. I enjoyed myself a lot and now I’m planning to teach them also after school or even organize a chess marathon. For the short time of me being with PS4L, I encountered a lot of amazing people who try to do what’s best for their communities and the environment they live in. It made me realize that everything is possible with the right intention. I am glad that I learned a lot of life skills I can take with me to Belgium and I am also glad that I could teach some of the children a new thing like playing chess. Even though it’s not much, it’s something they can take with them and maybe even help them in the future. So thank you PS4L for this amazing opportunity, I will take this with me for the rest of my life.

Love, Lieselot Van den Broeck

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