August 5, 2013. Our week working with Likoni Community Football League felt like a
week in paradise, and not just because we ended most days with a swim
in the Indian Ocean. After several weeks spent on Kenya’s inland, Coaches Charlie, AJ, and Megan headed to the coast for a welcome climate change. Likoni is a busy suburb of Mombasa, just a five minute ferry ride from the city’s main island. Once you cross the shipping lane and are carried off of the ferry by waves of fellow passengers,
you’re immediately hit with colors, smells, and sounds from all directions– vendors hawking fish and sandals made from tires, mutatus and motorbikes weaving through crowds, cows and chickens and children adding to the chaos. Likoni, like any community, has its share of
problems, including high HIV rates, children dropping out of school early, and a history of tribal clashes. We were reminded of these issues our daily tuktuk rides to and from the field, passing by several AIDS orphanages and a large, abandoned beachfront hotel, empty since the post-election violence of 1997. However, we also passed several soccer fields each day, teeming with young players. LCFL provided the goalposts for these fields, creating safe spaces for the
youth in the community to play.
Each morning, we worked our year 2 curriculum with a group of experienced LCFL coaches. The group, which included several current players as well as the first ever professional player from Kenya, was a pleasure to coach. Everyone was very much on board with the social messages of our games, and we focused on games for HIV prevention, gender equity and conflict resolution throughout the week. When it came time for the coaches to practice coaching, they taught us some great new games, including a new nautical version of our “Mingle, Mingle” game called “The boat is sinking.” AJ, Charlie, and Megan are eager to spread “The boat is sinking” to the rest of Kenya, and are confident that it will soon be a national hit. We hope that the LCFL coaches will use the games they learned this week to educate the players in their league. With 19 boys teams and 4 girls teams registered for this season, there is huge potential for impact.
When we weren’t on the field, we kept busy around Likoni and Mombasa. We spent a lot of time at the office of Hatua Likoni, an NGO that provides scholarships for students to pursue secondary school, and also supports LCFL. To get to the office, we walked through Hatua Likoni’s study room, packed with walls of books, long tables, and studious kids. On Wednesday, we went with several LCFL directors to the Likoni AIDS Orphanage. The children there put on a fantastic dance performance for us, and Kevin Odhiambo spoke to the orphanage about getting a team together to participate in LCFL’s league. It was great to have the chance to see the different youth in the community where we were working.
The end of each day found us back at the volunteer house, located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Not bad. A swim, a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Mariam!), a view of the sunset, and then inside for the evening’s entertainment. While the house lacked a television set, we
were plenty occupied by the two lizards that lived in our sitting room and went on nightly raids across the ceiling, catching moths and other pesky bugs. Once, horrified, we watched as one of the big lizards appeared to eat a smaller lizard, but as it turns out he was only gently chewing on his head, and the little guy was fine. The drama of Likoni TV. Overall, we had a fantastic week on the Kenyan coast, and only hope that our friends at LCFL enjoyed themselves and learned as
much as we did.