“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~Thomas A. Edison
Yesterday concluded the hardest work week we’ve had yet. All week long we’ve been running a SKILLZ Basketball Camp for the youth at the SOS Village here in Ka-Langa. SKILLZ Basketball is all about teaching HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills using basketball in a fun interactive way. We basically used a Peace Corps SKILLZ manual for soccer and adapted it to basketball. In November we pitched the camp to SOS staff and it just so happened that they were scrambling to come up with a summer program for the kids. What Grace and I intended to be a 3 days a week for 4 weeks camp, quickly turned into 6 straight days in December and then another 6 straight days in January. The reasoning for this was that the youth we’re working with at SOS are all orphans or vulnerable children from the surrounding area. During the holidays after school is out, the kids that are able to go home for the holidays do, and the rest stay in the village until school starts up again late January. We were so thrilled about having a good project to dive into we didn't think too much on the schedule, we just wanted to start playing and teaching!
This past Monday we weren't exactly sure what the response would be. We had been around the village handing out flyers on the weekend, and we had given the house mothers a copy of the schedule and group breakdown. The schedule and grouping was 8:00-9:15am 9yrs old and under, 9:30-10:45am 10-13yrs old, 11:00-12:30pm 14-15yrs old, and finally 4:00-6:00pm 16yrs old and up. It's impossible to be out on a basketball court in the middle of the day here, it's just way too hot and the kids don't have water, hence the long break in the afternoon. In the end though we had no reason to worry. Our first day, 61 kids showed up throughout the day and we had a blast! All in all, 93 of 122 kids who stay at the village have participated this week in at least one session with many of them coming to all 6 sessions.
Grace and I are exhausted and pretty sunburnt after we finished the first half of SKILLZ this week but more than that, we are motivated and inspired by all the kids who came out this week. Every session there would be a stream of kids ready to play with smiles on their faces despite the heat and the difficulty of learning a new sport. There were no quitters even though surface temperatures on the court were 100+ and a lot of players didn't have shoes. There were no quitters even though the temperature was over 90 everyday (we hit 103 once) and the only water to drink came out of a tap that went dry a couple times. There were no quitters even though some players couldn't hit the rim on their first day. Everybody came back to try again and play another day. Grace and I are also quite proud of what everyone has learned and how much all their confidence has improved. The first day we explained to every group that we wouldn't ever yell at them or hit them for getting an answer wrong (this is common in school), we just wanted them to try in English. The first couple days it was hard to pull answers out of them, and we got no additional questions asked, but at the end of the week in our older groups everybody would raise their hand to answer a question, and we started to have great conversations about HIV and how to prevent it.
Kids have it rough here. There's no doubt about it, and it's hard to digest sometimes. There's also no doubt though that 93 of the greatest kids Grace and I have ever been so privileged to meet, are right here in Ka-Langa Swaziland. All of them orphaned or considered vulnerable due to horrible circumstances sometimes incomprehensible to them, they've showed all week that they are going to take control of their own lives and make their country a better place. I think that's what the Peace Corps is all about.
BIG THANKS to the Morristown East Hurricanes and Coach Collins for hooking us up with jerseys so we can look like “real pro’s”! Also thanks to Grandaddy and Grandma Jane for making sure it got here!