THIS summer saw 45 volunteers travel 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 areas. The partnership’s commitment to ‘working together and learning together’ proved to have a most significant positive impact on students from both countries.

The 13th annual visit by St Mary’s to South Africa was led by Brad Dobson supported by Catherine Chattoe and Charlotte Wood. The St Mary’s student team were Louis Adams, Tom Allan, Harmonia Ebrahim, Charlotte Falkingham, Rachel Farmer, Lydia Giedrojt, Stephen Ginty, Ciaran Hammond, Ellie Lamb, Adam Metcalfe, Lucy Moorby, Ben Patterson, Will Sammon and Isabel Wilks and they had prepared for 18 months for what would be an incredible venture and significant learning experience.

Empowering students in developing leadership skills is one of the key aspects of the Bambisanani Partnership and through their ten day visit, the St Mary’s students, supported by students from Eshowe High School, mentored 30 Mnyakanya students through the Bambisanani Leadership programme. Using sport and education, the programme aimed to provide the Mnyakanya students with the necessary leadership skills and confidence to organise and deliver a sports festival, a reading festival and new to the programme, a writing festival, for 120 pupils from Ntolwane Primary school. As part of this process the Mnyakanya students were taught how to play, teach and organise competitions in hockey, rugby and short tennis. The leadership course was a tremendous success as was evident when the Mnyakanya students delivered three outstanding festivals. It was a learning process that empowered students from both countries and all with a real spirit of teamwork and mutual respect. The funding for all the equipment for the sports leadership and festivals at Mnyakanya was provided by Manchester based international shipping company, Cardinal Maritime, who have been long term supporters of the partnership.

Additionally, as part of the visit, the St Mary’s students delivered lessons in a wide range of curriculum areas, ranging from science to mathematics. The lessons were full of enthusiastic Mnyakanya learners with teachers from both countries praising the students for the exceptional quality of their work.

At a special partnership celebration ceremony, Mnyakanya students received their much deserved leadership awards. Students from Mnyakanya and Ntolwane Primary School were presented with a series of annual awards from the John Paul II Foundation for Sport and the Lawrie McCauley awards for football and writing. Ten days of intense hard work and learning culminated in the St Mary’s students volunteering at the uMlalazi Day Centre for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children run by the Zulufadder Children’s Trust. Here the students organised a variety of sports, games, singing and story sacks which all proved to be a tremendous success.

The visit had a remarkable impact on St Mary’s students. Rachel Farmer said: “Bambisanani was an amazing opportunity. It taught me a lot about myself and the people I worked alongside. It gave me a unique opportunity to experience a very different culture. I met many inspirational people in South Africa and it was a proud moment watching the Mnyakanya students teach hockey, tennis and rugby to the primary school students. We saw them develop throughout the time we worked with them, growing in confidence and becoming great young leaders in their community. I believe that sport is the ultimate bridge between two different communities, as it brings us together, allowing us to get to know each other, learn from each other and most importantly, have fun together. I admire all the South African students I met for their commitment to learning and their striving to improve their community.”

Head Boy Tom Allan added: “The visit to South Africa was the greatest ten days of my life. The trip allowed me to become an effective leader, able to work with children but also inspire them to become leaders. It was so rewarding on the day of the Sports Festival watching our team of leaders from Mnyakanya teach the children of Ntolwane Primary School. Coming away from this experience, I’ve made friends for life.”

Miss Charlotte Wood, teacher from St. Mary’s said of the visit: “It’s been an emotional journey for everyone involved and I’m sure the realisation of what the students have experienced won’t sink in for a while yet, and when it does it will be memories that last a lifetime. It’s been a pleasure to experience the visit with them.”

As part of their respective International Volunteering programmes, The University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University are key members of the Bambisanani Partnership with both institutions making a most significant impact in recent years. This year the two universities worked collaboratively on aspects of the programme as well as also developing particular areas of interest and expertise.

Founder and Chair of the Bambisanani Partnership charity David Geldart said: “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. Our supporters and sponsors, both here in the UK and in South Africa have 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.”

For more information about the Bambisanani Partnership also see