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Stirling staff and students in Zambia mission

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The University of Stirling is making a difference in Zambia by empowering and enriching communities through sport, leadership and education.

Students and staff are working in some of the most deprived areas of the African country’s capital, Lusaka, as part of the ‘Volunteer Zambia’ programme, which delivers school PE lessons, community sports programmes and health awareness workshops.

Three Stirling students – Elliott Rousen, Alicia Brown and Kenneth Matheson – have just returned after carrying out six weeks of volunteer work, while recent graduate Murray Pollock and Amy Beattie, Stirling’s Student Sport Experience Officer, have just arrived in the city.

The programme is co-ordinated by the Wallace Group, a partnership created in 2006 by several leading UK universities to support sports development for young people in Zambia. There are currently seven universities involved in the programme – Bath, Cardiff Metropolitan, Durham, Loughborough, Northumbria, St Andrews and Stirling – with other partners including UK Sport, Volleyball England, The Perfect Day Foundation, Umutima and Sport In Action.

Each summer, the universities send students and staff members to Lusaka for six weeks, between May and September, where they deliver programmes to more than 160,000 children each week.

Stirling student Murray Pollock

Stirling student Murray Pollock with local children in Lusaka

Elliott, a fourth-year Sports Studies student, worked on a community outreach programme, coaching football sessions. Reflecting on his experience, he said: “It was amazing to meet people from all over the UK, and the wider world, and to spend so much time with similar people, with similar goals and ambitions, in Zambia.

“I really enjoyed experiencing Zambian culture and it was very rewarding to use my personal skills to help benefit children in a sporting capacity. The children, the staff at the schools, and the local people really appreciated the work we were doing out there.”

He added: “It proved to me that we can make a difference, no matter how big or small. We can have a huge impact on people’s lives and it doesn’t take much.”

Third-year Kenneth, also studying Sports Studies, taught basketball and netball to local children. He said: “The children have benefitted both in skill and emotional development. I noticed a great improvement in the young students who routinely attended the training sessions during our time there. I am very confident that their rate of improvement will be sustained with continued coaching.”

He added: “I believe the greatest benefit of this experience, for me, was the broadening of my perspective. Through seeing the great difference in culture, it has made me a more understanding and socially-aware individual.”

Ms Beattie said: “The aim of the Wallace Group programme is to inspire and educate children through sport and leadership. It is a great experience for the children, getting involved in sport while learning about different cultures.

“It also gives our students the opportunity to experience different cultures, while developing their coaching skills in a challenging environment.

“Stirling is proud to be playing a key role in this important programme which – after 12 years – continues to make a tangible difference to young lives in Zambia.”

The process for selecting students to participate in the programme involves an initial application and then a follow-up interview.

Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, visited Zambia earlier this summer to see the work of the programme first-hand.

Find out more about the Wallace Group and how to get involved.

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