Sunday, 5 March 2017

Life Experiences

One of the things I love being able to do here in Zambia is create opportunities that allow the children to do things they have never done before. There was much excitement when we took groups of children from Kapumpe to the swimming pool. They had been looking forward to it ever since it was first mentioned, and would ask every day when they could go next. Two years on from a school trip to a game park, they still talk about the animals they saw and ask if we can visit again. It is lovely to see the look of delight on their faces; I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the experiences too because of their reactions. 

                            School trip to Nsobe Game Park

Last week was half term for schools in Hampshire, where I used to teach back home. Many children who attend those schools will very likely have been on outings – perhaps to a farm, theme park, the beach (maybe not quite so likely in February!), to visit friends in a different city or possibly even travel to another country on holiday. In contrast, the children supported by the Arise Project tend not to have many opportunities to venture far from where they live, apart from occasionally going to stay with a relative. It is actually rare for the majority of these children to even go to Ndola, the nearest town which is 15km away.

Tasting ice cream on a school trip into town

A group of boys from Arise had a very exciting, new experience last week – they played in a football tournament at the big football stadium in Ndola. The tournament was organised by a charity that we often link up with, Beyond Ourselves Zambia (BOZ), which is a UK-based charity working here in Zambia with community schools in Kitwe and Ndola. BOZ invited ten schools and youth projects to each bring a team of ten boys to the tournament for seven-a-side football matches.

First Arise game at the tournament

Games were played in front of the stadium

We provided our team from Arise with a fantastic Southampton Football Club kit which they were absolutely delighted with, especially when they found out they could keep it! (A few of them even changed into it again straight after school the next day.) A parent from one of the schools I used to work at in Hampshire had kindly donated the kit on behalf of the club. We just had to find trainers for a few of the boys who didn’t own any themselves, although some of the other teams played barefoot.

Arise football team in Southampton kit

Most of the players on the other teams were somewhat older and bigger than our team which gave us a bit of a disadvantage, but it didn’t stop the Arise team from giving their best in each match. It was a bright sunny day, so it was extremely hot and sweaty for them running about all over the place. They lost their first game but drew the next two games and managed to win one 2-0. There were some amusing celebrations when they scored, with a couple of the players doing multiple backflips and our Zambian adult helpers running around on the pitch. I felt like a proud mum (and very British!) standing on the side line cheering them on.

Backflip in action
The boys were then invited to have a tour of the stadium. I’ve been to the stadium several times to watch Zambia or the local team play, but for them the walk into and around the stadium was filled with numerous new experiences. In the posh changing rooms, they wanted to wash their hands with the liquid soap, in the VIP lounge they skidded around on the thick carpet and all of them were eager to have numerous photos taken. Even going in the lift was fun, and I found it entertaining that one of boys who tends to have a bit of attitude at school, was a bit scared of this new experience and held on very tightly to my arm!

In the stadium changing room
View of the pitch from the VIP Box

Levy Mwanawasa football stadium is named after the third President of Zambia who served from 2002 until his death in 2008. It was opened in 2012 and has a capacity of 49,800. Probably the biggest highlight of the day for the boys (apart from lunch which seems to be a highlight of any school trip for children both here and back home in the UK!) was playing on the pitch inside the stadium during the afternoon. 

Playing on the pitch inside the stadium
A huge thank you to BOZ for organising such a great day and to Southampton Football Club for supplying our kit. The children in  Arise are very much hoping this might turn into an annual event. All the work and organisation put in to the day was definitely worth it for the smiles on the boys’ faces.

Thank you from Arise!

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