Building Life Skills Through Sports
On Wednesday, October 18, 2022, a team of nine (9) American athletes and staff from Athletes for Hope (AFH) and World Learning traveled to Arusha, Tanzania as part of a seven (7) day project, “Building Life Skills in Youth Through Sports: Program for Tanzania” geared to empower girls and young women through basketball and sport.
Each activity on their daily schedule focused on increasing leadership skills, encouraging positive mental health, confidence, inclusion, cross-cultural understanding, female empowerment, and youth development at the Orkeeswa School, in Monduli, Tanzania.
While they were there, they kept a blog of their daily activity, what impacted them the most, and some of the lessons they took with them from the people of Tanzania. This is their story.
Written by: Suzanne Potts and Megan Oyster Montefusco
Incredible first day with all of the sights and sounds of Arusha, a bustling little city with honking horns, motorbikes, colorfully dressed women carrying bags on their heads, goats, and speeding trucks on the left side of the road. It became quieter after the one-hour drive to Monduli in the country with rolling hills, lots of agave/cactus, cows, goats, and people walking on the road. The first sight of Orkeeswa school (primary and secondary campuses) was amazing! Tiny buildings, dirt, and concrete floors with a large concrete basketball court and viewing steps. Kids in bright red sweaters and navy skirts for girls and navy pants for boys greeted us and so many stopped and stared. We broke off into small tour groups with students as leaders, then came together for staff and team introductions, a video (Coach Happy link here), and Q&A with Happy. SO INCREDIBLE and it wasn’t even lunch yet.
On to our first AFH Fit session with small groups of 15-20 students and two facilitators doing a “Courage” session which proved to be a challenge with many younger kids speaking Swahili and a bit on the quiet side but once they started talking, they really got into it! Many brain breaks and little games and then we all came together for afternoon sports sessions. Basketball, Soccer, Rugby, Volleyball, and a bunch of local villagers were there to watch. Many openly stared at Lacey and her prosthetic leg and she confidently and politely answered questions, and showed them her range of motion and how her leg worked. By the end of the day, we had found many new friends and can’t wait to go back tomorrow.
I jumped into a soccer session and quickly became head coach! It was really fun to lead some drills and watch kids learn in the same way I do. They didn’t need words to understand how to do it, they learned through example and got the little nuances that I was demonstrating super quick. I knew they got it when they gave me a thumbs up followed by a big smile.Megan Oyster Montefusco, Orlando Pride
Written by: Chris Wyttenbach & Megan Oyster Montefusco
It was a full day two for the AFH Group. The group started off with an excursion into the Lendikinya community to learn more about Women’s Agri-Enviro Vision (WAEV), a non-profit organization that empowers women from the Maasai communities through economic opportunities, community health initiatives, and environmental conversation. The Executive Director of the organization, Saing’orie Sangau, introduced the group to some of the participants in the program and explained how his group makes a positive impact in the community. A current student at the Orkeeswa school, Veronica, made an everlasting impression on Megan.
Veronica is a current student and an aspiring intern for Saing’orie Sangau. Veronica walked from her boma to drive with us in our jeep to the bomas so we sat together for all of the rides between bomas. She told me she was interested in agriculture because she saw her mom’s extreme hard work in their own farm pay off ever since she was little. She was so excited for the future of this program and plans to implement what she has learned from her mom and her long list of new ideas into the WAEV program in the future.Megan Oyster Montefusco, Orlando Pride
To get to this remote area of Arusha, the AFH Group had to leave behind the comforts of the mini-bus and traverse the rocky terrain in 4-wheel drive jeeps. Our first stop was a small boma (house) where we visited a woman who had just started her tree planting. Our second stop was in Lendikinya village to see the boma of one of the initial women who planted trees and now has a full garden of bananas, avocado, mango, and other shade trees, plus a water tank. Her initial success at growing trees led her to get more trees and gardening items, which continues to grow and expand her value in the community.
After visiting WAEV, we headed back to Owkeeswa for a lunch. Following lunch, we conducted a Life Skills session for the students that focus on AFH Fit – Honesty. The four groups of 20 students conversed with their AFH facilitators and participated in brain breaks and fun games. In the late afternoon, the AFH members conducted sports sessions. Awvee and Chasity led basketball clinics, Lacey led a long jump clinic, Michelle led a shot put clinic, and Zavier and Megan led soccer clinics. It was a long day, but fun was had by all.
Written by: Chris Wyttenbach, Megan Oyster Montefusco & Zaviar Moore
We arrived at the school today at noon and had lunch with the kids. Immediately after lunch, we started our life skills sessions with the students and the staff. The AFH members focused on the AFH FIT curriculum-specifically mindfulness. Awvee led a yoga session for the female basketball players and Suzanne and I conducted a variation of the empowerment workshop for a group of community outreach coordinators.
The workshop for the community outreach coordinators went extremely well. We introduced some of the core 1.0 topics but also dedicated some time to hear their thoughts on sports philanthropy in Tanzania. The group of 8 coordinators did an amazing job with the 1.0 exercises. Perhaps the most unique response during the session focused on the discussion of hope. Raymond, the coach of the U-19 and U-17 Women’s National Team said that basketball gives him hope. In the hundreds of workshops that we’ve conducted, Suzanne and I agreed that we’d never heard this response before. There were several other impressive responses from the group that showed a strong understanding of the 1.0 workshop. And, at the end of the workshop, we asked the group to help us create some 1.0 takeaways specifically for Tanzania.
A highlight of this day was working with Zaviar with a group of girls for the life skills classroom session. We played a few games that were a lot of fun but we ended the session by playing Simon Says. We made it a competition by placing a book between two girls. I shouted out head, shoulders, knees, and toes in a variety of orders, and when I yelled “book” the first person to pick up the book in the middle was the winner! I changed some words around to make them extra mindful. For example, frog=book, book=head. They had to listen really carefully and not get caught up in winning, which was tough for the girls but I was proud of that because they wanted to win so badly and grabbed the book uncontrollably! I can relate!
On the way home we saw the most beautiful and genuine moment between a soldier and a little child. The soldier handed the kid a dollar bill and he took off with the BIGGEST smile on his face. Running so fast that he almost couldn’t even keep up with himself. That moment will be forever cemented in my heart.Zaviar Moore, Southern University Baseball
Written by: Megan Oyster Montefusco & Zaviar Moore
A group of us went to Shanga which is a beautiful place that employs people of Arusha with disabilities. It was incredible. There were different rooms with all different types of things being made. From sewing to jewelry making to glass blowing, Shanga had it all and more. Needless to say, I loved meeting every single artist at Shanga and bought all that I could take home with me. Beaded bracelets, glass elephant ornaments, glass bowls, etc., etc., etc.
I am personally very grateful and had such a great time but it was even more internally filling to see the smile on Lacey’s face never disappear from arrival to departure. 10/10 day.Zaviar Moore, Southern University Baseball
Day Five- Rest Day
Written by: Megan Oyster Montefusco & Suzanne Potts
Lacey, Chris, and I got to visit a girl named Upende’s boma and meet her family. They were so welcoming and had music playing and everything set up for us as we arrived. They even offered to slaughter a goat for us as a way to show their appreciation…! We politely said nooo thank you. They also offered us Fantas (tea) so we drank those as we sat in their “family room.” It was amazing hearing about their family and their traditions. Upende’s dad shared with us that Upende is the one in their family who does all of their interior design! She loves textiles and fabrics. Their boma was beautiful and you could tell Upende was proud as she gave us a tour around their farm.
Suzanne, Michelle, and Chasity all visited Ndajiri’s home, where her mother, aunts, little brother, younger cousins, and sweet grandmother (Gogo) sat and answered questions with Ndajiri translating for us. We brought sodas and candies as gifts as well and enjoyed seeing their homes, their animals, family structure, and more. We shared photos from Ndajiri’s 2020 visit to Washington, DC with her family, videos of snow (!), and her grandmother prayed over our trip. We finished our boma visit with a tour of her grandmother’s boma and family photos with the whole group.
Written by: Megan Oyster Montefusco & Suzanne Potts
We visited a local primary school and were greeted by hundreds of little kids! We were given a short tour and stopped by a few classrooms. The classes all sang for us! It was so cute. The kids were singing so loud and proud and dancing all at the same time. It was the perfect start to the day. After our tour, I got to coach soccer to a big group of kids. None of them spoke English but we made it work! We had a bunch of lines going and we had the kids doing different types of passes and volleys. There were no cones, only a few balls, tons of kids, and even more little kids watching. It was chaos but tons of fun. I was tossing the ball to my line of kids and if they got it back to my hands I said “very nice”. A group of little kids was watching close by and they kept repeating “VERY NICE” every time I said it.
We returned to Orkeeswa school following our primary school visit. The students had a celebration ready for us outside where we ate lunch all week. They gave us a traditional Masai Shuka or a dress that looks like a robe. Upende gave me mine and we both had tears in our eyes. We got to say our thank you’s to the students for our time at Orkeeswa. I was able to give away one of my Orlando Pride jerseys to a girl who came out to play soccer with me every day. I gave it to her to recognize her leadership in soccer at Orkeeswa school. She was one of the best players at Orkeeswa and on top of that always went out of her way to help others and show them how to do things. It was tough to pick out someone to give my jersey to, but this little girl had an unmatched passion for soccer.
We also had our last life skills session. Michelle and I worked together most of the week with the same group of girls. We were only supposed to be able to cover 4/6 of the C.H.A.M.P.S words but when we told the girls that they demanded that we shared info about the other two words. They stayed curious and passionate to learn the whole time we worked with them. It was inspiring and awesome to see how engaged they were with us. It was a really hard goodbye to our group of girls. We took tons of pictures/selfies and took down each other’s names in hopes to stay pen pals.
It was an incredible experience to bring our AFH Fit C.H.A.M.P.S and Whole Being Athlete HEARTS curriculum to Tanzania, to learn about their culture, to share the many gifts of sports, and to have a wonderful time getting to know the students and staff at Orkeeswa!