The school bell rings and Carlton Primary School erupts into a blur of activity. Prep kids greet their parents at the classroom door, while more senior students tear through the corridors, bags and lunch boxes in hand.
Meanwhile in the school’s multipurpose room, volunteers gather. For the last four weeks, Sports Without Borders and Carlton Primary School have coordinated and run an after school sports program on Thursday afternoon. The aim of the program is to address the lack of social integration and poor health outcomes for newly arrived communities in Australia. By discussing healthy lifestyle choices and partaking in various activities, the kids experience the joys of organised sport. And the support given by local volunteers provides a heartwarming opportunity for the students to engage with members of the wider community.
After 8 years in London, local Carlton resident Peter Behrendorff volunteered with the program. “I wanted to get more involved in our great Carlton community, and sport seemed an ideal way to do that,” says Behrendorff.
Back at Carlton Primary School, 40 students from grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 spill into the room. The room fills with excitement as the students collect fresh fruit and sit in groups. Guided by the volunteers, the students go onto discuss health and well-being. After the students consider the merits of physical activity, between animated hand gestures and mouthfuls of fruit, the kids, often hand in hand with their favourite volunteers, head outside.
Week one of the program was run by Emperor Football Academy and local soccer coaches, and saw the students practice skills, develop match etiquette and hone their control of the ball. Week two was run by Athletics Victoria, and the students enjoyed relay races, hurdles, javelin and sprints. Week three was run by Cricket Victoria and saw the students learn how to bat and bowl, all the while encouraging their peers. Week four was run by Netball Victoria and allowed the students to develop their balance, shooting and throwing skills.
After the Easter break, the program will run for another four weeks with students from Prep and grades 1 and 2. Covering many of the same sports, and welcoming back the same volunteers, the program reinforces a sense of care from the wider community while giving these younger students the same opportunities to engage in physical activity.