Spreading the Love
May 18th 2017. CAC’s Ashlyn Hardie writes about her first week On-Field in Harare, Zimbabwe with the Sports and Recreation Commission.
For months now I have been working part time for CAC, taking care of all social media outlets, newsletters, and posting the blogs from everyone else’s travel adventures. Finally, after months of build up to my first trip on-field as a CAC employee, I am able to post a blog about my very own personal experiences! Although this trip is the first of many experiences for me, I can already tell it will be incredibly unique.
Our partners, Sports and Recreation Commission of Zimbabwe, have put us up at the guest lodge of Prince Edwards High School. This all boys boarding school is incredibly well known in Zimbabwe for producing the highest quality athletes, and giving a wide range of opportunities for their students to succeed in their future endeavors. Not only this, but the campus stands as a little patch of peace and beauty in the heart of the noise and commotion of Harare. Within hours of being on campus it seemed as though we had made so many new friends. The hospitality from every single Prince Edwards staff member was more than Emily and myself could have asked for. Teachers that we had met would swing by our place to walk us to meals at the dinning hall, offer to drive us to the store, took us to a professional game, and answered all of the many questions we had about life in Zim. Our partners at SRC and the people of Prince Edwards made us feel at home from the moment we arrived.
The program this week took place at the PE training field, approximately 30 yards from our bedroom windows. It could not have been a better scenario for us to be able to walk out of our rooms, and onto the field! Plus that’s the dream right? Living spitting distance from a soccer pitch?
Although the people of Zim are all raised speaking Shona, they all also learn English in school. This absolutely minimized our communication barriers, which made for a relaxing, smooth week with our participants. Being able to truly hear how they felt, and sense what they thought about certain topics without a translator gave us a more genuine feel for how these coaches interpreted the social issues in Zimbabwe. I had never seen the up close CAC on-field conversations before this week, but it is hard for me to imagine having them go much better. Some of the stand out conversations from the week were about child’s rights, female empowerment, environmental issues, and an incredibly controversial conversation about HIV education and our game titled “Condom Tag”.
It was clear that throughout the week these 40 humans from different places and backgrounds were growing together and really digging in to discuss the issues that are sweeping over their communities. As much as I would love to highlight those talking points for anyone who reads this, I think it is more important to share how it felt to be in the presence of those conversations. I was not one hundred percent on how the games would work, and what they would provoke in person, but they exceeded my expectations. There were moments where you could see a lightbulb pop off above someone’s head, where they realized exactly how to convey this message to their kids, moments when you could feel the passion people had for their youth and communities from the tone of their voice. There were moments, not one but many, where I found myself contemplating the differences between my life at home and the lives of those I have come to know and appreciate here in Zim.
The people of Zim are faced with governmental corruption, poverty, a lack of resources for their teams, and other ongoing hardships on a daily bases. Through this they walk with smiles. These coaches are working with minimal resources for their kids, and still are willing to give everything they have to make their communities a better place. Even those hosting us, have their own struggles, yet have done everything they can do to help us get around the city and feel welcomed. Writing this makes me think of all of those walking the planet who have everything but find themselves unhappy or unfulfilled. I think there is much to be said about the people of Zim, how they approach adversities, how they work and learn to be the best for the future generations, and how they walk with smiles even in hard times.
I have spent my life loving the game of soccer, knowing what it did for me, and watching it change the lives of people around me. Here, thousands of miles away from home, I watch it do the same. This first week solidifies all the reasons that I took this job, and all the excitement I have moving forward in my time with CAC. At the end of our week one participant stood up and thanked us. He thanked us for coming in and making them feel comfortable, like equals, and like their voice mattered. My immediate response was to thank him too, because these people Harare took in two goofy white girls from the United States of America and hosted us with respect, kindness, and laughter. Soccer is not just a game. It is a lifestyle, a teacher, and a hope. Soccer is love. And on that note, I am happy to say I have 6 more weeks of this trip to keep on spreading it!