Big news from Lena in Zambia

October 24, 2008 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

Here’s the latest blog from Lena Forman, a former volunteer for Futbol para la Vida in the Dominican Republic and now heading up a Grassroot Soccer program in Zambia. We’re hoping she’ll bring back all this experience to the DR!!! Go Lena!

Muli bwanji!

I know for many of you it is starting to get cold as the fall sets in but in Zambia we are just starting the rainy season. When I first arrived we used to joke about how each day was exactly the same when it came to weather. There was always a cloudless blue sky during the day and an amazing sunset in the evening. However, just about two weeks ago that all started to change. It started off when we noticed some clouds in the sky during the day. A few days later we watched as some mean looking dark clouds rolled in and covered the whole sky like a sheet. Then there was the thunder and you could only anticipate what was going to happen next. All of a sudden the sky opened and it very quickly when from drizzle to rain to downpour. Not only that but at one point there were small balls of hail falling from the sky! You couldn’t leave where you were because you would get soaked (or ‘socked’ as Zambians say) instantly. This lasted for maybe about an hour and then slowed up and started to pass and everyone resumed what they were doing. Since that first rain about 2 weeks ago it has probably rained at some point on 5 different days. Apparently the rain has come early this year as it usually doesn’t start until the last week in October (so right around now) and it will last until March. I’m told that life is pretty different during the rainy season because it is often difficult to plan things because you never know when it’s going to rain or if people will show up because of the weather. Also, when it rains, it pours! It’s going to be a pretty wet next few months for sure!

The big news…..I recently found out that I will be heading up a big GRS-Zambia project that was just approved for funding that we (the local Zambia crew) were completely unaware had even been applied for. Most of the work that Grassroot Soccer does in Zambia is centered around Lusaka. However, there was a project that was started a few years ago out in some refugee camps to the west and northwest of Lusaka that were well received, successful, and effective. GRS, along with another Lusaka-based organization called Breakthrough Sports Academy (BSA), went into the camps and trained people on teaching health education (training peer educators in the GRS curriculum) and also trained people to become soccer coaches and how to organize soccer leagues (the work BSA does). The project started in 2005 and ended in July 2007.

That’s where I come in. The grant is from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and is for $135,000 to go back to the camps and see what is still going on in terms of Grassroot Soccer and the soccer leagues that were formed. I will be traveling to two camps called Mayukwayukwa and Maheba (pronounced Maa-you-kwa-you-kwa and Ma-hey-ba…it’s not as hard as it looks). These camps were created in the mid 1970s soon after Angola (the neighboring country to the west) broke out in civil war after gaining independence from Portugal. This civil war lasted for 27 years and finally ended in 2002. However, many of the refugees that fled from Angola into Zambia have spent the majority of their lives in Zambia and a large population of them were born and grew up there at these Zambian camps. After 2002, the IOM (International Organization for Migration) helped to repatriate (bring back to their home country) tens of thousands of Angolans in Zambia back to Angola. However, many have chosen to stay in Zambia because it has become their home after all these years. There are also refugees living in these camps from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. One issue is that since many of these refugees have spent the majority or all of their lives in these Zambian refugee camps they face challenges when it comes to languages and culture in their home country if they return. They also are not Zambian citizens even though they may have been born in Zambia. Even if they are married to a Zambian they are still not a Zambian citizen (like in the US). These camps have been set up by the Zambian government and are monitored by the UNHCR and the High Commissioner.

So where exactly do I come in? Like I said I will be heading up this project to go back to these camps and evaluate where things are at (if there is anything at all) from our previous project. The last time we were in camp was July 2007 but we found out recently that apparently the soccer league that was set up during the last project is still somewhat running which is good to hear. My team that I will be working and traveling with on this project will include one other GRS staff (a Zambian) as well as one or two people from Breakthrough Sports Academy (BSA). We are not sure exactly who it is that will be joining me yet though. Within the next couple weeks we will be leaving for Mayukwayukwa where the plan is to live for about 4-5 weeks and do a site assessment and then decide what should happen from there. Although there were about 30 people trained during the original project we have no idea who is left or even still lives in the camp from this original group. The thought is that after the assessment we will run a TOT (Training of Trainers) and teach, or re-teach, the GRS curriculum so that these new peer educators can teach their community. The idea is that the GRS curriculum would coincide with the soccer league. For example, once a week a team of soccer players would go through one of the GRS activities with a trained GRS coach and then after they would play in their soccer match who is being coached by a BSA coach. So in those first 4-5 weeks we would try to set this up. Then, after returning to Lusaka, every 6 weeks we would return to the camp for about 10 days to do follow up visits and see how everything is progressing, see what is needed, etc. The same kind of idea would happen with Maheba except on a different schedule/different weeks. The camps are also pretty remote. For example, to get to Mayukwayukwa it is a 7 hour bus ride west of Lusaka to a city called Kaoma and then another 2 hours west in a car to get to the camp. My understanding is that the closest internet could be Kaoma and there is very limited cell phone service. This, however, is what I’ve heard from people who were there last year and things like cell phone coverage may have changed a bit by now. I have attached a map of the area so you can see where I’m going. Mayukwayukwa is in the Western Province and Maheba is in Northwestern Province.

I am very excited about the project because it seems like such a great opportunity and interesting project to get involved in. It’s also pretty cool that I get to live at the camps for an extended period of time with multiple follow-up visits because I will really get an opportunity to get to know the people who live there. There is a lot that needs to get sorted out before we go though (for example I am trying to set up a meeting with the actual High Commissioner in Lusaka to inform him/her that we will be in the camps because they monitor the camps and basically we have to get their stamp of approval). Also the proposal plan and budget are very loose which gives me more flexibility in the project and basically complete control over what we decide to do (kind of a scary thought because I really don’t know what I am doing right now!).

Some other interesting information about the project…in terms of the soccer part of the project, the league has been a huge success in the communities. Often a huge population of the community will actually close up what they are doing on game day and all come out to watch the matches that are going on. Also for those who are participating in the league many parents reported that they were happy because at the end of the day instead of going out after dinner and getting into trouble, their kids were staying in because they were tired from soccer practice or games. On the health education side, a study was done with Angolans who had returned to their communities in Angola where surveys were given to both those who were former refugees and those who never left Angola. It was found that those who were former refugees had more knowledge when it came to health education and making healthy life choices. Also, it was found that returnees often face stigma because they are actually returning from a country where the HIV prevalence is higher (2006 USAIDS estimates that Zambia’s prevalence to be 17% and Angola’s 3.7%). However, because the returnees are more knowledgeable about HIV they are able to deal with that stigma better and educate others about the facts around HIV/AIDS which helps them to reintegrate into their communities better.

Okay so I know that was a lot of information all at once which is a bit of what I have felt too because I knew nothing about any of this until about 2 weeks ago (but I am finally starting to understand). I hope all the different parts make sense because I know it is pretty confusing. If you have any questions let me know. I hope to send off another email before I leave for the first camp.

Oh yeah and today is Zambia’s Independence Day (24th October)! Zambia turns 44 years old today so Happy Independence Day!

Usale bwino! (Stay well!)

Lena

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Entry filed under: Futbol para la Vida.

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