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Richard McGrath is a lecturer in Health
Sciences at UniSA, and an associate member at ARENA (Alliance for Research in
Exercise, Nutrition and Activity) – the team of researchers currently working
with our Sport Connect program. He’s got some good news: there’s hard evidence
The Sport Connect program started in 2012 with just one group of immigrants from Burundi, Africa, who wanted to get all the benefits of playing team sports, but without the pressure of competition. We sent a group of volunteers to work with them, and now the program has grown into schools and other community groups all around Adelaide.
The program uses physical activities as a means to teach the participants about other life skills, while of course keeping them active and healthy. As a result, the participants start to help themselves, get along better with each other, and, in the children’s cases, behave better in the classroom.
While the volunteers get to experience interacting with different community groups like immigrants, other ethnic cultures and religions, and children with autism, those organisations get the opportunity to engage with the wider community; it’s a special partnership with benefits for both sides.
The ultimate goal for Sport Connect however, is to make it an ongoing, sustainable program, not just a one-off project. That’s where Richard’s research team comes in. They want to explore the program over time, collect evidence of its impact and how it’s working, learn more about physical activity and health, and then help the program grow. The Burundi immigrants were running their own activities in the end, and the research has already told us the connection that participants form with the volunteers is what helps them the most, so we’re off to a really strong start.
Sport Connect doesn’t always have the answer, it just has the means to help. It’s there to make a difference, and bring the help where it’s needed. The volunteers work with the groups, not just tell them what to do, and you could be the next person to join the team – for more information about volunteering with Sport Connect click here!