July 31st, 2012: 30 kids and coaches, moving randomly in a tight space, giggling and eagerly getting into groups of 2,3 7- whatever number the coach calls. This is what Coaches Across Continents call the Numbers game and what here in Mutare is called Mingle Mingle. That is not the only difference. Here the group includes able-bodied kids, plus those in wheelchairs, deaf children, and some severely mentally challenged, all playing together. For the past two weeks a team of six volunteers from Coaches Across Continents (CAC) have been working in Mutare, Zimbabwe partnered with Sport 4 Socialisation. Sport 4 Socialisation (S4S) is a program dedicated to promoting the growth and development of mentally and physically challenged children within the realms of mainstream society. S4S’s focus on the socialization of disabled children is unique in comparison to the missions and purposes of the majority of programs that CAC partners with in Africa.
Coaches Across Continents was able to collaborate with S4S, with CAC bringing its expertise in both soccer and games for socialization and S4S providing their extensive experience in working with disabled children. Working together, we were able to select a number of CAC games that were suitable to the needs of their children, in addition to providing them with the tools to build their own curriculum going forward. We were truly amazed by the adaptability and passion to improve that was inherent within all of the S4S coaches and office staff. The Mingle Mingle game is a perfect example of S4S and CAC working together, tweeking a CAC game in order to make it appropriate for the S4S kids. Playing a simple game like “Mingle Mingle” is challenging when you can only communicate with some of the participants through sign language, when a child in a wheelchair takes a little more time to maneuver to a group, or when some of the children take a couple of extra moments to process the number being called. However, it is through a game like this that one can see the true importance of promoting the growth in socialization of the S4S children with able-bodied children and everyday life in society.
The mission that S4S strives to achieve may seem unattainable to many; however, after working with S4S and interacting with the children for two weeks, we are very confident that S4S’s approach of promoting socialization through fun games and sport will be an overall success and allow many of the S4S children, who have been neglected by many aspects of society, to one day “Mingle Mingle” as equals in everyday social situations.
Sport 4 Socialisation was the Best New Project at beyond Sport 2010.