From the 12th to the 25th of June 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to London alongside my esteemed colleague, Jessica Dewhurst, the CEO of Justice Desk Africa (JDA). Our purpose was twofold: to participate in, and speak at, the Laureus Sport for Good Global Summit and to forge new partnerships and engage potential donors. As we embarked on this journey northward, little did we know that London would greet us with scorching summer temperatures, a welcome change from our chilly Cape Town!
In the week leading up to the summit, we had a series of meetings, both with long-standing partners as well as those with whom we were establishing new connections. We had the pleasure of meeting Georgia and Owain from the Satyarthi Foundation, where we discussed the potential synergies between our Youth Ambassadors Project and their 100 Million Campaign’s inspiring ‘Justice For Africa’ initiative. The Queen's Commonwealth Trust also welcomed us warmly, allowing for fruitful conversations on potential avenues of support and collaboration.
Amongst the many meetings, we encountered Kevin Power, co-founder and Group MD of Conversation LAB Group. Kevin's commitment to JDA shone through as he shared his plan to complete the UK 3 Peaks Challenge with his son, aiming to raise funds for our organisation. This challenging endeavour involves hiking up three of the UK's tallest mountains within a 24-hour timeframe. Additionally, Kevin graciously donated R30,000 to support Phumza, one of our Mbokodo Project alumni, in her first year of college.
Our journey was further blessed by the kindness of the La Sainte Union Catholic Sisters, who not only provided us with free accommodation at the Croft Lodge in Highgate, London for this trip, but also pledged ongoing support for our future visits. Their generosity extended beyond their hospitality, as they made a significant donation towards the work of Justice Desk Africa. Their support was a comforting embrace in a foreign land.
As the days rolled on, the Laureus Sport for Good Global Summit finally arrived, hosted at the renowned Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. This unique gathering brought together a passionate community of sports-related impact projects from around the world, united in their commitment to empowering girls and promoting gender equity outcomes. Our hearts were filled with awe as we witnessed the transformative power of sports in the lives of young people worldwide.
The highlight of our summit was undoubtedly the JDA breakout session led by Jessica and I. Together, we presented the ground-breaking Mbokodo Project, which empowers girl survivors of rape and other forms of gender-based violence through a holistic approach encompassing empowerment workshops, mentorship initiatives, mental health support and self-defence and physical fitness.
The engagement and enthusiasm of the attendees during our breakout session were truly remarkable. We were moved by how deeply our message resonated with them and their
eagerness to learn more about our project. The self-defence demonstration, in particular, stirred their excitement, as they recognized its potential to equip young girls with invaluable skills and unyielding confidence. The positive reception was further evident in the number of partnership pack requests we received, indicating a genuine interest in our work.
Beyond our breakout session, Jessica and I actively participated in the plenary sessions of the conference, making impactful contributions on topics such as the role of boys and men in improving female participation in sports and the systemic issues faced by female leaders in accessing funding within the male-dominated NGO sector. Our voices were heard, amplifying the mission of Justice Desk Africa and shedding light on the challenges faced by women in the industry.
The summit also provided a remarkable opportunity to network and establish connections with influential figures and organisations committed to creating positive change through sports. We were honoured to meet inspiring individuals such as Molly Bartrip, a professional footballer for Tottenham Hotspur, Kosovare Asllani, a professional footballer for AC Milan and the Swedish National Team, Babalwa Latsha, Africa's first professional female rugby player, and Kely Nascimento, president of the Nascimento Foundation and a Laureus ambassador. These encounters fueled our passion and instilled a sense of shared purpose.
During the summit, I also had the pleasure of engaging in a sit-down interview with Olivia Opara from the Haringey Community Press newspaper. We delved into the mission of Justice Desk Africa, our ongoing projects, and our significant involvement in the Laureus Sport for Good Global Summit. The resulting article, published digitally in their July issue, brought our endeavours to a wider audience, spreading the message of empowerment and change.
Amidst our busy schedule, I am happy to report that Jessica and I managed to carve out some time for sightseeing, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the rich history and cultural treasures of the UK. We marvelled at the grandeur of St. Paul's Chapel, stood in awe before the enigmatic Stonehenge, and caught glimpses of regal elegance at Buckingham Palace. Our journey even took us to the National Museum, where we had the privilege of admiring the masterpieces of renowned artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso.
The blazing heatwave that embraced London during our visit was a stark contrast to the cold winters of Cape Town. As we traversed the vibrant city, relying on the bustling public transport system, we found ourselves immersed in the energetic rhythm of London life. The crowded trains, the hurried footsteps on busy streets, and the intertwining paths of diverse individuals all added to the exhilarating experience. It was a reminder that change and progress are born in the midst of dynamic environments.
As our time in London came to an end, Jessica and I returned to Cape Town, carrying with us the memories of a transformative journey. The Laureus Global Summit provided us with a platform to amplify our message, make valuable connections, and inspire change through the power of sport. With hearts filled with gratitude and minds brimming with ideas, we stepped off the plane, ready to continue our work at Justice Desk Africa. The trip to London had been a testament to the indomitable spirit of collaboration, the potential for positive impact, and the unwavering commitment to empowering individuals and effecting change on a global scale.