Hi everyone, I hope life is treating you well.
I recently went on a 9 week trip to Tanzania, to conduct research into how to encourage more girls and women to be involved in sports. The assumption in this research is, which I do happen to wholeheartedly believe, that sport has the ability to positively affect upon people’s lives and help towards a happy and healthy future.
I found it difficult to sit down and write while I was away when on many days I found myself dejected and frustrated, rather than inspired and motivated. However, I do try to see positives in everything, in this case I feel spurred on to let you all know some of the positive things I learnt throughout my time in Tanzania, and equally in the time I’ve spent back on home turf.
I’ve been back from Tanzania for over 4 months now and in the time I have reflected upon, written and submitted my research. I have really appreciated the perspective that I’ve gained from being back in the UK, especially in terms of turning negatives into positives.
I want to share with you are examples I witnessed of the positive impact that sport is having on young people’s lives in Arusha and Dar es Salaam. I had the best time watching the Olympics and Paralympics this summer and I think it’s possibly one of the easiest times to convince people about the power of sport to change people’s lives and inspire a nation- certainly to the UK population anyway. Sadly, it’s not that easy to persuade people in Arusha- at least not yet. The attitude to sport is mixed and although a lot of negative attitudes towards sport came out of my interviews, I feel today (like every day) it’s good to start with the positives.
I met many people, young and old, who had taken a chance on sport as a means to improve their own lives or the lives of others in their community. Although a small proportion of Arusha society engage with sport, if you look in the right places you can see a sports culture that will inspire you just as much as Mo Farah doing the double in London. There are a few examples in particular that I’d like to share;
Firstly, Future Stars are a football academy solely existing in Arusha training young girls and boys from all parts of society. What is so great about Future Stars is that they integrate not only boys and girls, but children who are extremely poor with children from wealthy families. This is quite a rare occurrence in a culture in which the poor and the rich rarely cross paths. Children who attend international schools, often from western origins, go to school and live in areas that are guarded and ‘sheltered’ from the busy streets and crowded slums. What is so great about Future Stars is that they provide a ‘level playing field’ where children can exercise their rights simply as children, by playing football with other children, regardless of their race, education level or money- it just doesn’t matter.
Secondly, I was really inspired by a youth centre known as the Buguruni youth centre which I came across on my visit to Dar es Salaam. The centre is based at a local school, after school hours, in one of the poorest wards in Tanzania’s capital city. Walking around Buguruni can be a risky thing for a child; with high crime, prostitution and very poor sanitation being some of the main characteristics of the place. The Buguruni youth centre is something for the young people of Buguruni, by the people of Buguruni. With no external funding, Buguruni sustains itself simply on the desire of a community to help one another and improve their own lives. In an interview with one of the young girls who had been attending the centre since she was 11 (she is now 20), she stated that when she came to Buguruni to play sport it was the happiest time of her day as she could release all of her worries. She stated that most days there is not enough food to feed her family and if it wasn’t for Buguruni she fears that she may have been forced to fall into bad ways. Most of the children taking part in the activities I witnessed were extremely poor- but you would not know. They were training hard, enjoying themselves and had a great deal of respect for their coaches.
Sticking with Buguruni to finish off this rare blog, one of the biggest inspirations about this centre is the lack of dependence on foreign aid or external help. This was a community initiative by and for the community and well, cheesy as it is- Buguruni has a small place in my heart now.
From these two experiences I saw that sport can unite, heal and fundamentally bring hope into the lives of some of the poorest people in the world. When I’m having a low day and questioning whether or not significant change can happen in the parts of Tanzania I visited, I just think about Buguruni and soon I’m filled with optimism and hope.
Have a good week,