We had a chat with Andrew Jenkin, founder of Africa on the Ball, a charity committed to use sport as a mean for development. Learn about their mission, their successes and what's next for them!
The MSS: What is Africa on the Ball? How was it born?
Andrew: Africa on the Ball is a Scottish charity that uses sport for development in deprived communities of the continent. It was born out of my experiences as a participant and then latterly a Team Leader for UKSport’s IDEALS project which placed UK based University students in Zambia to coach and teach skills to peer leaders within communities. It was an absolutely fantastic experience and although a cliché, it was genuinely life changing for me and completely altered my outlook on life. I happened to be placed in Zambia while the 2010 World Cup was happening ‘down the road’ in South Africa and I saw the impact and effect football was having in bringing the continent together. I knew we had to do something to create a greater legacy from the programme and the World Cup and following my time with the project felt inspired to create a programme that would empower communities to effect change. It was from here the idea of Africa on the Ball was born with our ethos being to empower and educate through football – giving people the skills and knowledge they needed to create positive change for themselves and their communities.
You've been around since 2011. In 7 years, how have you changed as a group, what have you learned that everyone organisation could use?
Over the seven years we’ve been operating, we’ve learned a lot. Certainly our key area of focus just now is about sustainability. We’ve created a number of programmes which are helping the local community we’re working in (Kalingalinga in Lusaka) but everything needs to be sustainable. Our ambition is to create a self-sufficient community development plan whereby we run programmes that help people (such as outreach and educational programmes) and that are funded through other social enterprise activities within the area. For example we’re looking to run a community bus business which would help people get to the local hospital (and also our football teams to their away games) and the proceeds from its operation going into other less ‘commercially viable’ but vital services such as HIV/AIDS support groups.
You are clearly an association that believes in sport, similarly to all the projects that we like to put forward. What makes you believe in sport and what is the best way for using it?
Sport can be a great vehicle for wider change – and this comes in many forms. On a basic level and just thinking about my own love of football, I’m happy to chase after a football for a couple of hours and improve my mental and physical health whereas the attraction of the gym is much much less! On a higher level, and as an example, the very essence of football is about cooperation. You win as a team, you lose as a team. You share in its rewards and pains. Without team work you won’t succeed. It’s a life lesson and a great example of how sport can teach you wider life lessons. It can bring people together and when you do that, you can create change.
You focus on Health & Education & Enterprise. All this through sport? How?!
If you look at sport as a sector – its potential benefits are endless. Financial benefits through the money invested and paid out (through employment and taxes for example), health benefits through participation (as we’ve touched upon) and learnings and social skill development (through working as a team, learning about communication and leadership). Using football as a social enterprise, we can seek to advance each of these themes.
Usually, social enterprises and charities can be separated in three groups: those who focus on immediate relief to dramatic situations, those who work on long-term by providing strong foundations to people in need, and those who try to do both. What's your approach?
This is a great question! Fundamentally (and legally), we’re a charity that is about helping people in need. However our approach to doing this is around sustainability and our aspiration is to be more like a social enterprise whereby rather than raising money from the UK to fund programmes, we’d seek to empower communities to help themselves and self-sustain programmes of support through the establishment of a series of social enterprises that put their proceeds into other aspects of the charity’s work.
You focused in the past on Zambia and Gambia, because of your past work with IDEALS. How do you see your area of influence develop in the future?
Our main area of focus is very much in Zambia. This is the charity’s home and where the inspiration for our work started. However, as I’ve touched upon, we’re looking to establish a series of social enterprises that empower people and their communities. One area we’re very interested in is that of microfinance and its benefits. Helping women access money so they can develop sustainable streams of income. We’re currently working in the Gambia on a pilot microfinance scheme and going forward would be interested in replicating successful and impactful programmes wherever we feel we can deliver something.
The goal is obviously to help people in need, but how did this adventure affect you? You must have discovered terrible and great things during your time at AotB ?
AotB has taught me a lot about life and loss. During my 4 months in Zambia, I saw things which fundamentally altered my outlook on life. Now, whatever my situation here back in the UK is, I never take for granted how fortunate I am. Even since we started Africa on the Ball, members of our community (and even team members) have passed away at very young ages through illnesses they weren’t aware about or didn’t have the finances to have examined or treated properly. It’s incredible saddening but just reinforces my belief in what we’re trying to do. We’re so incredibly lucky and my belief is if I can repay back even something through AotB, then I’ll die much happier!
Then, what's next? What are your plans for the next few months and years?
Our areas of focus just now are around the development of social enterprises and the microfinance programme but also female empowerment through sport (and there are some planned crossovers!). We last year started our women and girls empowerment programme in Kalingalinga (the girls have called themselves the K-Town Queens) and are doing absolutely brilliantly. They’re playing together in a team now and training twice a week. We use this set up to help them with their aspirations by finding out where they are at school to see if we can support their tuition fees or what they want to do after school (and perhaps help them set up their own business). We’re really passionate about this aspect of our work so we’re hoping it can continue to grow!
Here is the link to the K-Town Queens crowdfunding campaign: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-k-town-queens