by Paul Stimpson, Table Tennis England Senior Communications Officer
The visit came after the launch of the ITTF Foundation, which will act as the International Table Tennis Federation’s Corporate Social Responsibility arm to take on humanitarian projects, aiming to build solidarity through table tennis.
Brighton Table Tennis Club has been running a weekly session at High Down Prison since last summer and more recently have started in the women’s prison next door.
The Brighton project is thought to be the only programme in the world that is training prisoners to be coaches so that they can give something back and make a positive contribution during and after their prison sentence.
“The Brighton Table Tennis Club prison project is a great example of table tennis for development being used for positive social change. The ITTF Foundation is supportive and interested in seeing other table tennis clubs in other parts of the world working in prisons.” Leandro Olvech
Wasim Alyousef (left) and (right) Leandro Olvech enjoying playing table tennis (Photo: Alexis Maryon)
Also, Leandro Olvech met and played against some of the club’s players and coaches, including Wasim Alyousef, a 17 year old Level One coach from Syria who has been in Brighton for just a year and has made incredible progress with his table tennis
He also met Ivy Manning, a newly qualified Level One coach who is a Romany Gypsy and came into Brighton Table Tennis Club through sessions run in partnership with Friends, Families and Travellers. In just a few months she has seen first-hand the power of table tennis in bringing people together and now plans to set up a new club in Shoreham that will actively bring community and traveller young people together through sport.
“Brighton Table Tennis Club is for the ITTF Foundation one of the best clubs in the world in terms of creativity to be inclusive and to integrate minority groups. It is for sure an example to other clubs in the world.” Leandro Olvech
Leandro Olvech (left) and (right) Ivy Manning, a formidable Mixed Doubles pair (Photo: Alexis Maryon)
While in England, Leandro Olvech also visited the new Greenhouse Centre in London, which was opened by Princes William and Harry last month.
“My overall visit was very satisfactory; England is always a source of inspiration with loads of activities going on. Greenhouse Sports is a wonderful example, same as the Brighton Table Tennis Club philosophy and their project on the prison. I am very surprised by the headquarters of Greenhouse, that is probably the most beautiful table tennis venue I have ever visited, Table Tennis England or even the ITTF should host an event there!” Leandro Olvech
The ITTF Foundation will have two new projects under its responsibility in its first year. ITTF Nittaku Dream Building with Refugees, focusing on the Za’atari Refugee Camp to use table tennis to promote positive individual and social change inside the Syrian Refugee community in Za’atari. Also, the Bridge Programme in Argentina, linking the 2018 Youth Olympic Games host city Argentina and 2020 Olympic Games host city Tokyo.
Leandro Olvech invited representatives from Brighton to join celebrations at the Za’atari camp on the next World Table Tennis Day on 6th April.