Bantams Abroad: Impact of Athletics is Life Changing
For Trinity Women's Soccer Players
Hartford, Conn. - Amandla means power or strength in Xhosa, one of the national languages of South Africa. It is also the name of a German-based foundation, located in Khayelitsha, South Africa, that seeks to provide organized education through sports programs to youth in disadvantaged communities. The goals of the partnership between AMANDLA and CTC Ten, an American-based foundation, inspired the involvement of senior soccer players Courtney DeVinney and Leigh Howard while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. DeVinney and Howard's efforts were recently the subject of a feature column in the Hartford Courant.
For DeVinney, a resident of Wallingford, Pa., the roots of the American-based foundation hit close to home. CTC Ten is a foundation that was started as an effort to raise money for the construction of a turf field in the middle of one of the most impoverished townships in Khayelitsha. Chris Campbell, a student and soccer player at Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster, Pa., inspired the effort. He passed away suddenly before the start of his senior soccer season but his teammates and he especially, had been very excited about going to the townships of South Africa to train and to volunteer. Campbell's parents and the F&M team kept up the fundraising for the "Africa Project" and as a result, an F&M turf field replica was built in Khayelitsha in memory of him.
Campbell's best friend and teammate, Ryan McGonigle, was sent to South Africa after graduation to oversee the construction of the Chris Campbell Memorial Field and Amy Cawley, former girlfriend and women's F&M soccer player followed soon after. The CTC Ten foundation, in association with the field, has transformed into an amazing effort that teamed up with AMANDLA EduFootball to create the ultimate match made in heaven. Today, AMANDLA uses the Chris Campbell Memorial Field and American-based funding through CTC Ten to follow through on its initiative of providing youth with a safe and productive place to go after school. Together the organizations provide education through the game of soccer, including life skills, leadership programs, community empowerment and a safe haven to keep abandoned kids from bad situations.
The Trinity in Cape Town study abroad program requires that students have an internship. DeVinney read about the partner organizations and the Chris Campbell Memorial Field in her local newspaper and everything fell into place for her. " I was still deciding if I definitely wanted to go to Cape Town and when I read about CTC Ten everything just clicked. It was soccer, service, working with kids and an internship opportunity all in one. It combined all of my interests," DeVinney says.
Trinity athletes carry with them many of the values that they learn throughout their college athletic careers. DeVinney and Howard spread these Bantam-bred values to the people from the Khayelitsha township and using a mutual love for the game of soccer, formed influential cross-cultural connections.
"All of the experiences that I have had and the values that I have learned at Trinity and through playing soccer enabled me to form rich and lasting relationships and actually make an impact on this community," DeVinney says. DeVinney and Howard agree that passion for the game served as a very influential factor in inspiring the kids who benefited from the organizations.
Howard says, "Soccer is something I have been passionate about my whole life and I try to seize every opportunity I get to share that passion with others. I have always seen soccer as a language of its own in a way and I think its great that people from such different upbringings and cultures can communicate through the sport."
DeVinney adds, "A major thing that I brought to the organization was just a passion for soccer; it completely added to everything I did at the field. Being a female soccer player was very powerful too, since girls don't have many opportunities there, so it was cool to serve as a role model for them. I think a lot of them need that in their lives."
What is characteristic of most cross-cultural connections is a mutual learning between individuals. Howard says, "I went there thinking I was going to change people's lives but I think that they changed my life and taught me more than I could ever teach them." What is unique about this South African experience is that learning did not occur through communication or sharing of cultural practices but through a mutual enjoyment of playing a sport. " Before I left for South Africa, soccer took up a big part of my life, but I gained a greater appreciation and the experience gave me more reason to love the sport," reflected DeVinney.
All college athletes play at this high level because they love the game and the competition but what matters most is what you get out of your playing years. DeVinney says, " This is why I love soccer; there is so much more that you can do with a sport and the skills that you learn can take you so much further." Howard adds, "The organization has given me a totally new perspective. It is easy to get caught up in silly things like statistics and technicalities of the game, but then you see these kids playing because they love the sport and it allows them to share a common passion with one another. This has changed my outlook towards playing at Trinity for the better."
The most important thing that both DeVinney and Howard took away from their athletic internship experience in South Africa is promoting awareness. DeVinney explains that although money helps, what makes the biggest impact on the lives of youth in need is involvement. Howard says, "I learned that you don't have to go out there and create world peace and solve world hunger in order to have an impact on peoples lives. It's as simple as going out and playing the game. When you see these kids light up at the sight of a ball and a field, it made me see that I need to take advantage of the opportunities that I am given because I step on a field everyday."
AMANDLA and CTC Ten not only offer all of those opportunities for youth in need but also employment and educational opportunities for young adults looking to create a better life for themselves and to have a direct impact on their own community. "The organizations offer students an opportunity to have a more hands-on experience and a more immediate impact. It was a unique internship opportunity. I was able to play soccer so I would hope that more Trinity kids would be drawn to it," DeVinney advocates.
Many Trinity athletes go abroad each year. The experience in South Africa was unique for DeVinney and Howard but it shows how Trinity and its student-athletes can have an impact on and be affected by spreading the values they learn through participation in sports. "I saw how powerful sports, especially soccer, are in other countries. I couldn't speak the language, couldn't communicate, but all it takes is a ball to allow such different people to connect with each other," DeVinney says.
Several efforts have already been made to show Trinity's support for the partnered organizations around the Chris Campbell Memorial Field. The women's soccer team and families of players have decided to pledge a certain amount of money for each goal scored by the team this season. All of the money will be pooled at the end of the season and, as a contribution to the efforts, will be sent to CTC Ten in South Africa. In addition the AMANDLA/CTC Ten partnership has been added to the list of possible internship opportunities for students going to Cape Town, which will help to get more Trinity students involved and strengthen the relationship between the College and the effort in Khayelitsha. Finally Head Women's Soccer Coach Michael Smith says, "Our team has been educated by two of our players…who returned with a tremendous commitment to their continued support of AMANDLA. As a team, we have embraced their charge and plan to donate uniforms, balls, and other equipment." DeVinney says "I saw a bunch of old uniforms from high schools around my hometown there. It would be great to see that spread and see some Trinity uniforms over there." Trinity Athletics has already taken steps to join and promote the efforts and hopefully this will become a trend in the near future, inspiring different people to get involved. Coach Smith agrees saying, "We will, without a doubt, look for opportunities to contribute and stay connected to the AMANDLA efforts each year."
written by Kristen Ramsay'12
Read the article in the Hartford Courant
Read the article in the Trinity Reporter
To learn more about the effort and the organizations involved please visit: