blog entry #3

Final days of Week 1 Workshop

Nobody anticipated the emotional rollercoaster of this morning’s workshop.

Starting quite jollily, we devised a game to illustrate the ‘attack and defence’ of an objective, this objective being the ability to critically/deeply reflect on a situation within the mentoring of young people. For this we used a small game of football to illustrate our point, within this, half of the team wore labels for the defence, such as ‘lack of time’, ‘lack of enthusiasm’… and the attack had labels such as ‘team work’ and ‘communication’ on. Through this we were able to illustrate and encourage defeating the defence and scoring in the goal of deep reflection, simple yet effective.

Our next activity however was for the Malawian team to step into the shoes of a young person their project has helped, their individual struggles, and the consequences of these. In small groups, it was our job then to interview the Malawian team to find out information about these individuals. Soon stories of Malawian children and adults flowed.

Some members of the team were humbled to find that many of the stories and situations the local coaches had to share were so relatable, despite growing up thousands of miles away. How that although we have all grown up with different family situations, different experiences and cultures, at the end of the day we are all humans and are all in search of acceptance and belonging as well as a need for both physical and emotional safety.

Listening to each-others success stories has cemented the reason why we are out here in Malawi, how to an outsider it may seem like a group of students out for a month long holiday to play football in the African sun, but to the children and adults affected by our sports mission out here it offers a safe place for children to be children and embrace their natural instinct to play (something that is rare here, as we learnt that for the majority of children here, they are forced to grow-up far too soon, often in dangerous and hard situations) the emotional support and guidance sport offers through parental figures coaching them and through the support of other team and play mates who have experienced similar situations in their lives too. But, most importantly sport offers a sense of accomplishment, building personal confidence and esteem in children that are put down daily, often by the people that are meant to be caring for them; the confidence to go back to school and develop their education and to go out and search for employment despite the social stereotypes which plague the local community.

One of the coaches completing their level four, is proof of the success of the scheme, as a young boy he had a tough beginning, dropping out of school, living on the streets and partaking in activities no fourteen year old should even consider. He then bumped into one of the schemes leaders who invited him to one of the football clubs he ran through the support of Sport Malawi and is now volunteering at the club himself whilst working as a successful freelance film editor.

During our lunch breaks Glenn has been teaching a lot of us Volleyball- recruiting for the university’s team no doubt, but our practise caught the attention of some local children who came and put us through our paces and showed us how to play it Malawi style. Whilst playing, we were told by the local coaches that the children will have probably never played with adults in a sporting context before, as their parents will most likely not have the time for the usual kick about, bike ride or even swing ball tournaments we all had the privilege of sharing with our own families as children. Giving us a great appreciation for our own upbringings and knowing that we were sharing that experience, despite a great language barrier, with those 6 year olds something we all treasured growing up, as well a good laugh at some of us trying to play volleyball.

Today has been the most powerful day for me in our short stay so far, as it has highlighted to me why we are here and how much we have to offer and how much we can learn from the locals here in Mzuzu, I hope we can continue this for the rest of the trip.