Learners from Lavender Hill will now be able to play handball thanks to a German volunteer who has dedicated his time to teaching the learners the sport.
Simon Uttke (20) from Stuttgart, Germany has been in the country for about six months and he has worked with Zerilda Park Primary, Levana Primary, Hillwood Primary and Prince George Primary schools.
The schools previously didn’t have this sport, but now they can play it thanks to Uttke. He is part of an organisation called Play Handball and locally he is being supported by Learning in Reach, a non-profit organisation that works in Lavender Hill
Uttke says although the learners had an idea of what the sport was about, they needed someone to instil that confidence in them and show them exactly what to do.
“It has been such an amazing time to teach the learners handball. The schools didn’t have the sport and I decided to take my gap year and come help these learners because I feel like it was all about cricket, soccer and rugby. They didn’t have much of a choice as these are sports that are most talked about and they have become very popular. My idea was to give the learners another alternative and I’m glad they really like it,” he says.
Apart from giving the learners a sporting alternative, Uttke believes sport is a good way to keep children busy and off the streets.
“A lot is happening in this area and to keep children busy also means that they are in a safe space. Their first lesson was about the basic rules of handball and most of them caught on the basics very fast. When we started playing they enjoyed it and they improved with each practice day. It is good to see them do so well. I’m happy that my time here was not in vain. I have helped these learners a lot. They really enjoy it and I can’t go home with learners asking when the next training session is,” he says.
Since he is due to return home in the next two weeks, he has made sure that what he has started is not forgotten when he jets off. He has trained a local coach who will carry on working with all the schools he has been working with.
“I have trained a local coach who will take over from me and continue helping the kids. He will work with all the schools and they will continue like I did so that the sport doesn’t die. I’m happy that I found someone who will take over from where I leave off,” he says.
As his farewell, all the schools he has worked with held a beach tournament at Muizenberg last Thursday, where the new coach who will take over was introduced to them.
Uttke is currently staying with a host family in Seawinds and he loves every moment. “It is nice being here, different from what I’m used to. You learn a lot and by being in the area and working with the community. You can see there is more to it than what meets the eye. There is incredible talent. People here have to work past their challenges. It is such a great community.”