• Little by Little

    October 13, 2014.  Kelly Conheeney posts her thoughts from our last program in Indonesia in rural Papua.  I am sleeping in a house right now in the middle of Maybrat, a remote jungle land overpopulated with stray dogs and banana trees. There is one road between here and the city of Sorong and we occupied all 240 km of it on our 4-hour drive in. I am convinced my life in Maybrat is the closest I will ever feel to being a celebrity. Kids scream “Bule” (“white person”) when we drive by and giggle when we say hi to them. After every practice session we exit the field in the bed of a pick up truck waving goodbye to the children that sat and watched our 3-hour practice session.

    I feel as though I’ve travelled back in time. Electricity turns on every night at 7 pm and shuts down at 4 am when the roosters and howling dogs start their early morning chatter. Cell phone service can be found at the top of the mountain if you have the patience and time to stand with your hand in the air and wait for a bar to show up on your phone.  What seemed at first like difficult living standards became quite comforting after long days on the field.

    Everyday is a new challenge. Both on field and off field In Maybrat I was taken out of my comfort zone.  Brian had me plan each session and run each game on my own all week which was new to me. A week that was extremely impactful and eye opening in my life and educational, at the least, for the coaches that attended.

    Papua has the highest rate of HIV of anywhere in Indonesia hence the reason we spent two full days focusing on the issue. Some people in Maybrat expressed the belief that HIV is brought into town by people who travel to and from the city of Sorong. It’s a valid thought but it seemed a lack of knowledge over the issue was the dominant reason many of the coaches placed all the blame on that one theory.

    On the 3rd day of training we played Adebayor HIV games with the coaches. Among these games we talk about the facts concerning the spread of HIV as well as the ways it is contracted, and the social stigma attached to the virus. When asked how HIV is contracted; an answer that may seem obvious to some, were not so obvious to the eleven 30+ year-old coaches staring back at me. Some of the answers we heard was why HIV education was a mandatory focus for the next two days for us; Answers that were all false and based more on myths than actual fact.

    It was a memorable moment for me when a little boy who was watching from the sideline jumped into our session, because the game calls for larger teams and our numbers were small. At first he was reluctant to join in on the conversation until he felt a brave voice inside of him tell him to use his words. His little voice very softly muttered under his breath. The coaches laughed and I wasn’t able to hear what he said until Jason translated his answer to me. He was right! The little 10 year old had said the answer I had been waiting for as to another reason how HIV can spread, “through your mom”. The other answers, including “Mosquitos, eating different types of food, sharing the same cup of water as someone else” are not ways one can contract HIV/AIDS. But rather through unsafe sex, sharing needles, and through childbirth/breastfeeding.

    I think the moment may have opened the coaches eyes more than it did mine.

    A 10 year-old knowing about HIV/AIDS isn’t uncommon to see around the world, but HIV education isn’t enforced until later in their lives. Some unfortunately never learn the facts. But it may have been a slight moment where the coaches realized the importance of sending the correct information to the kids so they are able to make educated decisions with their lives.

    The way I see it, Maybrat is an area of the world that needs time to grow. Little by little they will progress, and it will take time. It will take a foundation built upon strong leaders and a system like the hat-trick initiative for existing coaches to have a structure for their lives and be able to impact the lives of the future generation as well.

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1 Comment

  1. Kalin says: October 17, 2014 at 1:23 amReply

    Great Kelly! 🙂