A story of coaching in Tanzania from Melissa.

Original Post: 9/19/2009

As the plane touched down on the orange dirt path that was used as a runway I was excited and ready to work with the people of Kigoma. Before leaving for Africa I prepared the best I could; I read the lonely planet for Tanzania, I learned a couple of phrases in Swahili, I watched some documentaries on Africa etc… However for an American girl who has never traveled outside of North America my efforts to be ready wasn’t enough to prepare me for the emotion packed adventure I was about to take.

Our schedule was set and very full once we arrived, working with teachers in the morning and children in the evening. The first morning we arrived at what looked like to me an abandoned stadium but as we entered I learned that this stadium wasn’t abandoned at all. People called this home. Children who lived at this stadium were there, all smiles, wanting to know what we were doing. As the children sat by watching along came huge crowds of adults, we began to set up for the first session. Due to limited equipment that we could carry with us, we used anything we could find for cones and markers, mostly sticks and rocks. The teachers we worked with were amazing! They were so eager to learn and so happy to play, sometimes enjoying the games just as much if not more than the kids. However it was the children of Africa that stole my heart. They came out and played barefoot and loved it. The laughs were contagious and the spirit was incredible even though their lives were unbelievably hard.

We got into about the third day and I began really internalizing all that I was seeing and feeling. The children came out thrilled to be playing and with a real ball at that. They truly were having the time of their lives but I began to question what we were doing. As I looked around I saw so much suffering; people barely making it, children with fungus and horrible infections, babies carrying babies on their backs. I felt so powerless. There was so much to be done here and we were playing soccer… I then expressed my feelings to Nick who said to me that as long as we could make one child smile that day then we made that child’s life a little bit better.

I didn’t truly understand the effect that Africa would have on me (and the effect that I may have had on Africa) until I was back home. In hindsight things are so much clearer. Everyday I reflect on my time in Kigoma and as I get emails from the people there I realize what we were able to do. We gave teachers the tools to help the children everyday make their lives a little bit easier. We empowered someone enough to start a girls soccer program that now has over 100 girls playing, when before girls playing soccer was unheard of. And most of all, our adventure in Africa made me understand how much just a little time, a little effort, and a lot of heart can do for so many people.

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