Saturday, April 27, 2013

Soccer Tournament and Earth Day

My youth project has officially started, even though we have not received funding yet but that is another story, and I must say our soccer tournament last week was a success; the tournament was programmed for seven youth groups in Velingara to be held over a period of three days. The tournament started on Sunday, April 15th with a series of three games, six teams included for the day’s festivities. The program was intended to be simple and low budget, which I think we pulled off quite well. The first two days of games, the second being on Tuesday, April 16th, required no funding besides a soccer ball that was budgeted but had to be purchased early due to the ball splitting open when someone kicked it shortly after the game started, obviously hindering play. It was a lot of fun watching the soccer games and it was great to see some competition amongst the youth while letting loose and having fun. I would have loved to have music, beverages or something to make the tournament more tournament-like but I didn’t want to come across as the rich American throwing money around for things that aren’t needed. I already have a hard enough time convincing people that 1) I don’t have thousands of dollars in my bank account, 2) I can’t afford to fly you to America 3) I am not going to marry you so you can get a visa and live in America and 4) I had to work hard to have what I have and be where I am today. Even with the lack of showy things the first two days of the tournament it was still fun; we had a turnout of about 60 youth each day. The third day, Sunday, April 21st, was not only the day of the final match but also the day before Earth Day; we arranged a little city cleanup project amongst some of the youth organizations in celebration. Considering how last minute and how things-will-just-fall-into-place people are, things went pretty well. The plan for the clean up project was to have a youth association sweep a section of their part of town where we would then have a dump truck come around to the sites to pick up the waste and dispose of it at the site where our waste management project dumps our waste. The morning of, Abdoul, the guy who is the president of youth activities here who had helped me with writing the grant, called me to tell me that sweeping had begun at École 2 (a school in town) and that I should head over. Upon arriving at école 2 I was both surprised and excited that Abdoul had paid for a DJ and sound system with his own money (I think and hope) to build excitement amongst the youth and community for Earth Day. I spoke a little bit with everyone helping, expressing how much I appreciate them participating in both the tournament and the clean up and since this particular youth association was in the finals they were more than happy to help! After a few minutes I left to go to the center of town to check out the other sites where the youth organizations were sweeping. There were six sites in total; école 2, the garage (transportation hub), the main road through town, in front of the big mosque and the two other sites were random streets located in the sections of town where the youth groups lived. The group that was located on the main road is a truly amazing group, with a great organizational president, who actually do clean ups in their neighborhood every Sunday because they want to. There receive no money or recognition, they just appreciate the way their neighborhood looks after sweeping; a great example for the community, of sustainable development and what a community can and should do once they receive needed skills and tools. A dump truck was supposed to come around to each section of town but since we didn’t have any tools to put the garbage physically into the truck my work partner Amadou, as well as some
association leaders, thought it would be a better idea to just go with the usual approach to disposing of trash, burning it. While I suggested throwing the trash into the dump truck with hands, forks, shovels, well anything that we had access to, I was overruled and burning it was. This is about the point where I should have put my foot down because it was in fact a project in celebration of the earth and the fact that we are sending hazardous fumes into the atmosphere was not exactly sending an honorable example. I was already mildly overwhelmed running around town, in the hot sun, visiting each of the sites while also, by spending my own personal money, buying tea and sugar as a thank you to the teams that I did not have the energy to pick this fight about burning trash and to also come up with a better solution other than what I had already stated. I figured that next year I would have a better understanding of the situation and what exactly is needed to effectively do a clean up without actually doing more harm and I could make it up then. Inshallah. The final match, between the youth groups Boku Jam and Kamikaz, was scheduled for 4pm and when I arrived about a quarter after I was one of 8 people. Having faith that people would show up, at least the two teams would because they both wanted the bragging rights, it was a waiting game with me, the DJ and his crew who were apparently sticking around for the finale, which I was honestly a little excited about. Normally events that have speakers, the large ones that are usually as tall as I am, are always annoying because they either blast the music too loud to even hear ones own thoughts, play songs with crappy sound quality or play one of three artists on repeat (Rihanna and Akon of course are two of the three) but I was excited to have some sort of entertainment at my event since everyone not American seems to enjoy the speaker spectacle. The game stared around 5:15 with me kicking the first ball in the center of the field to signal the beginning of the match, about as much fun as it sounds. Wilma and Jordan arrived shortly after the game started to watch and honestly, I think they were just bored and this gave them something to do. With the music playing and someone clearing excited to be holding a microphone (commenting on everything from the game, who was in the audience, singing the song that was currently playing or, of course, trying to get the white
girls to say something) the game was off to a good start. I must say, I was proud of the work that Abdoul and I had put into the project; everyone was seemingly having a great time. As sort of a half-time show we decided to hand out the tea and sugar to the youth groups that helped out with the clean up earlier that morning. Abdoul was working with the DJ announcing the youth groups and as a representative would come up I would shake their hand and then hand them the tea and sugar. I am not sure if I have ever explained this but making tea is a large part of the Senegalese culture. It is an excuse for people, mostly men, to hang out, talk and debate while the tea brews- since the tea is prepared over coals it takes much longer to boil than if over a fire ensuring that both the men gather for longer periods of time and that the tea will have a better flavor. I myself don’t drink the tea since the Senegalese are incapable of drinking anything that does not have pounds of sugar in it, my teeth rot just thinking about it. And this is not a generalization, it is a fact! The game ended in a tie, 1-1, resulting in a shootout. Each team had five shots against the opposing teams goalie but I am pretty sure this went longer as well but I can’t say for sure. As nerve-racking and dramatic as it was watching the shoot out (people almost crying, screaming and jumping on those that made the shot and falling to the ground with those that missed) team Kamikaze proved victorious. They celebrated by rushing the field, running and chanting as a group and when I took a picture with them and the trophy I was greeted with a small stampede. It was great seeing how happy everyone was. The day was finally over and I was pleased that the entire soccer tournament and clean up event went smoothly, with only minor bumps in the road. Working on this project proved to me that I am capable on planning, organizing and managing a project and I really enjoyed it. I wish there were more things that I could be involved with that didn’t require money or portray me as only a dollar sign. My struggle with aid in Africa is still present but I am learning how to execute projects without loads of funding and how to have those conversations with people who just want funding. Sorry not going to happen. The training sessions with the youth leaders are the next step in the project and I don’t even know where to begin with the problems I am having with my waste management project but I will save those details for another date. Take care and talk to you soon. Cheers.


Jon Biehn said...

Sounds like your having a great experience, I am super proud of you!!!! Keep up the good work?

Kari Cinker said...

Great stuff Kel. So proud of you and everything you are doing!


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