RALEIGH, N.C. - Meredith College volleyball alumna Mary Beth Finegan, '13, extended her playing career while serving as a social worker in Africa. She and her teammates captured the Volleyball South Africa (VSA) National Championship Cup title in September.
After earning first place in the Western Province league, the All Star Saints earned an invitation to the National Championship Cup. The event is one of two VSA beach volleyball tournaments on the African National team recruiting circuit and features national indoor and beach volleyball players.
In a four-set thriller the Saints knocked off the five-time defending champion Cigma of Joburg to win the title. Three All Star Saints' players were recognized with tournament awards, including Finegan who earned Most Valuable Player as the team's libero.
Finegan collected another first-place title at VSA's flagship event, the Inter Provincial Tournament, in July while playing with the Western Province team. Western defeated the top-seeded Gauteng Province in the championship. Finegan will now prepare for the All-African Zone 6 Volleyball Club Championships this month with the All Star Saints.
Finegan traveled to South Africa in February 2013 to work with Teachers for Africa Foundation, an organization dedicated to the cause of better education in the townships of South Africa. She began her journey with Project SMASH, a unique program using volleyball as a vehicle to teach and develop social skills like perseverance, team spirit, handling disappointment, patience and sense of responsibility for youth, in the Hout Bay and Cape Town areas.
She extended her stay working with the Ubuntu for Africa through September 2014 and now manages a group for vulnerable high school girls along with other independent projects.
While continuing her efforts in South Africa, Finegan recently received interest in her idea for a documentary film. Finegan's vision is to portray strong, powerful women in the community.
"Working as a social worker in this community, I found that it was very easy to focus on and get lost in all the negative aspects that are affiliated with township life and poverty," said Finegan. "We easily miss what IS working in the community and how can we find ways to support those areas."
The proposed film, which recently received support from a producer in Cape Town, will focus on what Finegan finds as the most consistent positive element within township life - the power of a strong female presence. "These are the people who work to keep the family unit together and in many ways bring peace to the community as a whole," said Finegan. "I want to showcase these women and inspire others to appreciate their strength."
The project will have a longterm focus with no timeline established. In the meantime Finegan plans to return to the States next year to continue her education in social work and child development.