In tough times people are in the search of hope. Volleyball is one of the tools which LKTBF Fingerprint Ruth Zijlstra discovered to be powerful and give many a spark of hope.
Ruth has been a part of Let's Keep The Ball Flying since 2020. She always wanted to be a part of the foundation and its mission to make a change in people's lives through the power of Volleyball. She was inspired when first going to Greece to volunteer in a refugee camp for five months.
She organized projects there built around sports with another volunteer. She then went to one of the projects from Let's Keep The Ball Flying. They first were planning to volunteer at the East-African Volleyball Championships, but these were unfortunately canceled due to Covid-19. Ruth and Arianne then decided to visit Moshi, Tanzania, where they helped at a volleyball academy.
Biggest Cultural Differences
Ruth always wanted to become a professional Volleyball player and strived to become the best and play at the highest level. She was lucky to have a professional gym, volleyball gear, and a supportive community around her.
"We often forget how priviledged we are. We complain about simple things like, oh they don't have my shoe size. Some of the kids there did not even have shoes. Since I have been a part of the foundation, I realized that volleyball is not just a sport to enjoy."
Ruth learned similar lessons in Greece. She saw the joy the sport brought to the people. She could see that people were lonely, especially a lot of the women who were often alone in their tents. Through time and Volleyball, they were able to bring together a group of 20 women.
She could see the joy of the women and the spark in their eyes when they were starting to open up and share stories from back home, their families, and precious memories. Although it took a few months to see them all come together, she saw that through the sport, it was much more than the training, but the social community that was created through it.
"You see that there is so much hate in the world and you realized how unfair it can be, but when you see the people smile and laugh, there are also those beautiful moments that are a light at the end of the tunnel."
Biggest Issues to be Faced
Gender inequality is still one of the issues to be addressed within Tanzania. Mixed-gender teams are usually not common in sports. It was very interesting to see the boys and the girls mix within the volleyball teams because there would be resistance from the kids to mix the teams.
The scarcity of women coaches in a generally male-dominant culture limits many of the girls to be inspired and realize their dreams. For Ruth, one of the biggest goals was to show that it is possible and to make the girls feel empowered.
One of the most professional Volleyball players in Tanzania is called David. He is part of the projects and Academies in Tanzania, Mwanza. He has grown up with Volleyball and struggles which hinder many to become a professional athlete.
Despite his struggles in a country with limited resources, he was one of the few who was able to realize his dream of becoming a professional volleyball player. Through his journey, his dream is to develop the sport and bring about more professionalism within Volleyball.
"A lot of the kids don't have that much money so when they have volleyball and can get scholarships a lot can use that to get into better schools and have more opportunities."
The goal was really to help them develop and learn from a young age so that they would have more opportunities to grow.
"The coaches are super passionate and really want to teach the children from a young age. And sometimes, they would only have one ball between 15 children but they always make it work."
Ruth mentioned that they would not stop playing until it was dark. "They were all engaged and really wanted to learn and be a part of the group. That was something I really loved to see. It’s a sport where everybody can connect and everybody can learn. This is the same in life."
However, our work is not done. Like Ruth, there are many others in need of our help. We continue to create social impact in many people's lives through the power of volleyball. A little goes a long way.
You can be the missing puzzle piece of pushing for equality and development within our volleyball communities around the world. It is a life-changing experience you will never forget. Subscribe to our Youtube channel to watch Ruth her video from her experience in Tanzania or if you would like to do more? Join our Dreamteam community and start helping!