Together in Sport Rwanda (TiSR) Purpose and Aims
Together in Sport Rwanda aims to improve the quality of life to young people in Rwanda’s rural Bugesera district, in the village of Gako. We are passionate in using the power of sport as a tool to improve education, develop life skills and improve health, wellbeing and social cohesion.
In 2009 Kari Spence, then aged 18, travelled to Rwanda for the first time with a group of 15 young people. This was a life-changing experience, where Kari was involved in creating an educational playground for a school situated in Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital City. Kari completely fell in love with the country and the Rwandan people, and she knew she wanted to return to Rwanda again.
This is where the story started…
Kari deferred her entry to study Physical Education Teaching at the University of Edinburgh for a year and decided to head back to Rwanda, to live in a rural village with a local Rwandan family. For three months during 2010 she lived the life of a local Rwandan, where water was limited, the house had no electricity and she ate traditional Rwandan foods. She volunteered at the local school, where she taught English and introduced different sports to the primary-aged pupils.
It was during this trip that Kari was taken to a small rural village, Gako, situated around an hour’s drive from the capital to visit Faith and Hope Primary School. Driving into Gako village, she witnessed many children sitting at the side of the road wearing rags and covered in mud. Children as young as three were walking miles with heavy containers of water. Kari could not believe the contrast between the Kigali city and the poor rural villages surrounding it. When she first arrived at Faith and Hope, she was shocked at how many pupils were squeezed into one class, how few school supplies they had and how dirty and malnourished the pupils were. She immediately knew this is where she could make a huge difference. Kari made two trips a year, working closely with the teachers, particularly developing their physical education, health and wellbeing programmes, using the knowledge she was gaining at university. To enable Kari to take resources and raise funds for the school, the Together Partnership (a Scottish Charity (SC040298)) initially supported her,
Six years on, Kari founded Together in Sport Rwanda along with five committed Trustees. The charity has set up a variety of different projects, helping to improve the lives of the 500 pupils at Faith and Hope Primary School, and consequently having a positive impact on the whole community of Gako.
What we have achieved so far without grant funding from 2014 – 2017
Projects Sports Field 2014:
Kari was made aware that the nearest sports facilities were over 5km away from the school, and therefore the pupils were not receiving any Physical Education. The only land that had any potential for the school to use to provide sport was put on the market for sale, and was likely to be used for housing. Kari put out an appeal to the sports industry in Scotland asking for help. This appeal raised £6500, which enabled the school to secure the land. This land now provides the school with a full-size football pitch, as well as a basketball and volleyball court. This is used daily by Faith and Hope pupils.
The head teacher has also set up a football team for the street children, as well as an adult team, made up of the fathers of the pupils which the charity helps. The entire community has access to these pitches.
Sponsor Programme 2014:
When Kari first visited Faith and Hope, she was overwhelmed at how many children still did not attend school. She therefore initially started a sponsor programme, where for £3 a month donors could send a child to school. This grew quite quickly, with friends and family keen to get involved with the programme. With class sizes increasing, Kari and her board of trustees decided that there had to be some changes to the current sponsor programme. In summer 2017, after discussions with the head teacher at Faith and Hope, it was decided that sponsorship of individual children was not the most efficient way to support the school as a whole. The charity therefore revised the initial sponsorship programme and launched ‘Friends of Faith and Hope’. We now have over 140 people in the UK supporting the school by a monthly donation. This helps with overall day-to-day running costs, enabling the school to purchase more textbooks and teaching materials, and helping with the local teachers’ wages. As part of this ‘Friends of Faith and Hope’ programme, we have a crisis fund, comprising emergency funds to help those families most in need. Consequently, NO child will ever be required to leave the school due to being unable able to afford their fees. To find out more about our ‘Friends of Faith and Hope’ programme click here
In December 2015, we received a donation of £2500 from Removal Service Scotland (RSS), which enabled us to build a kitchen at the school. Through fundraising, and effective partnerships with local businesses, we are now feeding hot porridge to all 500 pupils two days each week. The charity already has enough sustainable income to support this until the end of 2018.
To feed a child for a month is £3. To find out more about our food programme click here.
From January 2017, through our own fundraising, we have arranged health insurance cover for every pupil, and all staff at Faith and Hope. This was recognised as a priority, after many children fell ill with malaria and the school experienced an increase in pupils with HIV. We are already committed to continuing to fund this until 2019, through allocating our restricted reserve on all fundraising achieved through our volunteering programmes. It costs £3 per year to insure a pupil.
In July 2017, we took our first team of UK primary and PE teachers out to Rwanda to volunteer at Faith and Hope Primary for two weeks. The teachers took part in an educational programme, where they worked with all age groups, from nursery to P6, delivering a variety of different lessons :- PE, English, Numeracy, Literacy, Art and Music. They worked closely with the local Rwandan teachers, delivering a teacher-training programme, where they introduced the local teachers to a variety of different teaching methodologies, and shared their expertise, to improve the overall education which is being delivered at the school. The charity aims to make this an annual trip, therefore providing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to the local teachers on an annual basis. Through this trip, the volunteers are asked to raise a minimum of £400, which goes directly to the charity’s projects. To find out more about volunteering click here
The charity is very passionate about providing opportunities for young people to experience a life changing opportunity, by visiting Rwanda on a educational volunteering trip. Kari has been involved with taking three groups of young people out to Rwanda so far. These young people visited Faith and Hope, working with the pupils and designing educational art work for the school classroom walls, to be used as teaching aids. Alongside the work at Faith and Hope, the young people visited the genocide memorial sites, learning about the history of the country, and were offered many opportunities to experience Rwandan culture. For more information around youth trips and school trip to Rwanda
Who We Are
Together in Sport Rwanda is managed by a small group of committed individuals in Edinburgh and East Lothian.
Kari Spence is a 26 year old PE teacher living in Edinburgh, Scotland. First visiting Rwanda in 2009, she immediately fell in love with the country and its incredible people. Throughout her time at University, she spent her long summers in Gako, working closely with the staff and pupils at Faith and Hope Academy. She quickly realised the beneficial effect sport had on the children and on the whole community, bringing them together and teaching many invaluable life skills.
She has visited the school many times since then, and Together in Sport Rwanda has become a huge part of her life. She is extremely passionate about the organisation achieving all of its goals and ambitions, and thanks everyone who has supported her so far in this adventure. Without you all, we would not be where we are today.
Sue Spence first joined her daughter in Rwanda during the summer 2012, volunteering at Faith and Hope Academy for a month. The staff and pupils there quickly won her heart, and she was able to witness first hand Kari’s passion for improving the lives of the village community. She has returned to Rwanda twice since then, is immensely proud of what her daughter has achieved so far, and looks forward to working closely with the organisation to achieve even more.
Penny is the founder of a highly respected sports and community consultancy based in North Berwick. Having been at the forefront of developing sport in Scotland, particularly in many deprived communities, it was an obvious jump for her to support Kari and her Together in Sport project in Rwanda. She has always believed that sport is a tool for change, and that it can impact across all aspects of life – social, health, physical and mental – and help give people a meaning and focus in life when things get tough.
She brings skills in developing sports projects from the grass roots to reality, and through bringing the right people together to help a project thrive. Financial assistance is huge when working in a Country like Rwanda, but it is the people on the ground that can really make the difference by spending it wisely.
She looks forward over the next few years to using her skills and experience to contribute to changing lives in this small community through directly supporting change at Faith and Hope.
Rachael Houlston is a 26 year old living and working in Edinburgh. She has been a close friend of the founder of Together in Sport since high school and fell in love with Rwanda when she first visited with Kari in 2013. During her most recent trip, in 2015, she witnessed the construction of the School’s basketball court and, seeing the impact this had on the pupils and the community, she realised how valuable the organisation’s work is. She is passionate about Rwanda and the work Together in Sport does, and is excited to be involved in the work the organisation will be doing in the future.
Chris is a mum to two teenagers, both of whom benefit from free education and view it as their right. Sadly, in so many parts of the world, she knows that a proper education is a distant dream. Her family has followed with great interest Kari’s many visits to Faith and Hope Academy, and found it truly amazing that a year of full-time education and a year of health insurance costs so very little in Rwanda. They immediately signed up to sponsor seven year old Philomon, and follow his progress with great interest, hoping that he has the opportunity to fulfil his hopes and ambitions just as her son and daughter are striving to do.
With a background in healthcare, she spent many years as a cardiothoracic perfusionist and physiotherapist within the NHS and the private sector, and now specialises in acupuncture and complementary therapy. Her time is split between developing her business and looking after the family and its many animals.
Gill has worked in the events industry with clients from across the private, voluntary and public sectors for over 25 years, with an exceptional track record of high calibre events behind her. She has run her own event management business since 1990 and is now a Director of 3 Stage Events Ltd.
As a trustee, she brings her creative, planning and logistical skills to the charity. As an individual, she hopes that she can add her expertise and experience to that of the other trustees, to make a real difference to the education, health and wellbeing of school children in Rwanda.
The experience of having been a volunteer teacher in Zanzibar for a few months gave Gill a valuable insight into what it was ‘Together in Sport’ was trying to achieve as there are many parallels to be drawn. Accepting the invitation to become a trustee seemed like a natural progression. While Gill maintains her own charitable interests in Zanzibar, the opportunity to become involved in a Scottish charity with similar close links to the children who benefit from its efforts but on a broader scale, in another East African country, is an exciting challenge.