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UCLan students return to Zambia using sport as a tool for teaching

Students make annual trip to Zambia to deliver health messages to children

zambia trip
Students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have made the annual visit to Zambia to teach children about the dangers of HIV and drug abuse using sport as a tool for teaching. 

The group of 18 undergraduates consisted of mainly sports coaching and sports studies students with an additional three students from the physiotherapy course. Spending almost three weeks out in the African country, the team worked together to promote health messages and life skills through sport and physical activity.

Third year sports coaching student Dan Birkbeck has been on the trip before and this year was one of the team leaders. He said: “Our aim was teach children messages around key issues such as HIV, AIDS, STDs, gender equality and personal hygiene.  These are just some of the problems that they face and due to lack of education and resources, it is our job to make sure that we deliver this message in the best way we can.

“To do this we used sport as a tool and carried out various different activities and games which demonstrated how easy it is for diseases to get passed around. For example, passing a football showed how easy it is for disease to spread.”  

Each year, groups of students from the School of Sport and Wellbeing travel out to Zambia as part of The Sport for Development Project. Established in 2008 by Cliff Olsson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching and Development, the students work for a community developed agency called Sport in Action as part of the project.

Our aim was teach children messages around key issues such as HIV, AIDS, STDs, gender equality and personal hygiene.

Sport in Action (SIA) is a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to better peoples’ quality of life through sport and recreation activities. The target groups includes orphaned and vulnerable children, youth, girls and women and disabled people.

Cliff commented: “This project gives students the opportunity to study the global value and contribution sport can make towards supporting wider international development such as the Sustainable Development Goals and gives them a better informed perspective of global challenges.”

The group were away from Monday 8 May to Sunday 28 May and began their trip in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital before travelling two hours north to Kabwe, which hosts the Zambia Youth Olympics centre. The team spent just under two weeks carrying out the project in schools and the local community playing fields around Kabwe, teaching English and playing traditional Zambian and English games that reinforced vital life messages.

Andy Johnson, a third year sports coaching student was also a team leader on this trip, having been last year. He commented: “The experience has been life changing for myself, Dan and everyone else on the trip. But most importantly we have helped the children with lessons they would not have received otherwise.

“Zambia is a special place, but somewhere that needs more support from trips like this one. None of this would have been possible without the support of the University and from Mary Rose and her team of peer leaders in Zambia. It has been the best experience of my life.”

In the past few years, UCLan students have raised more than £10,000 towards buying basic sports equipment and supported the building of basketball courts in local rural schools in Zambia.

The project has also provided the opportunity for local voluntary sports leaders from Zambia to come to Preston and share their skills and knowledge with community volunteers and children from local schools.


The Undergraduate students make their annual visit.

Jessica Millington | 12 June 2017