August 4th 2014. CAC volunteer Jamie Wheaton blogs from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
My team was welcomed with open arms as we crossed the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The administrators of the Georges Malaika Foundation smoothed our transition across the border, which would have been difficult considering none of our team spoke any French, the official language of Congo. Over the next few weeks I would pick up some key phrases, most of which won’t help me if I have to speak French anywhere other than a soccer field. As we walked into our hotel, Sarah, the manager at the Kalebuka Football for Hope Center, gave us details for the week ahead of us. She, and the rest of the GMF team, were some of the most organized people I’ve worked with. They had every minute of our stay planned, even adjusting to unexpected surprises, like a trip to a neighboring farm or a detour so my peer could braid her hair (a decision we all regret). I was truly impressed by the coordination of the foundation all week.
This week had a different tone for me than any of the previous ones. For a start, there were over 65 people there, more than twice the amount I had worked with previously. While it was encouraging that Coaches Across Continents was reaching this many people, it made it harder to connect to the coaches on a personal level (the language barrier didn’t help either). While some characters stood out (a man who insisted on being called “Strong Man” is one) overall I didn’t feel as personally connected to some of the coaches who worked in the morning.
The afternoons were a different story: working with a small group of around 15 people we worked with the GMF employees to address specific problems in the society. Even though everything took twice as a long with a translator, we were still able to help them come up with possible solutions for child abuse, and child rights. The passion displayed in that room for the children in their community was very moving.
One thing that was unique about the program in Lubumbashi was that we tested out Peace Day games. International Peace day is scheduled for September 21st, and Coaches Across Continents will be supporting the cause by providing Peace Day games to communities in over 130 countries! Lubumbashi was our guinea pig for these games, and they were a big success. What to Do When Faced With a Problem and Understanding Violence were big crowd pleasers. Peace Day is a UN sponsored international holiday, and will be celebrated all around the world. Whats more, this year DRC will be the main focus country for Peace Day with many events promoting non-violence.
Overall, the GMF foundation impressed me with the care and commitment they’ve shown to promoting child’s rights. There dedication to the children in their area was incredible, and made my experience in Lubumbashi one of the most memorable of my whole trip.