My life has revolved around athletics. I grew up playing soccer, lacrosse, basketball, ice hockey, anything that was available and kept me moving. I love feeling fit and strong and, even though I am newly a college grad, playing a sport momentarily makes me feel ten years younger again. It would be difficult to articulate how important athletics have been for me. I knew that when I got involved in ELI Africa, a personal goal for me would be to provide similar opportunities for the children in Mauritius. These kids love to play soccer, yet there are very few opportunities for structured play. Youth leagues are abundant in the United States, not so here. I have seen very, very few playing fields, so kids play on gravel and jagged rocks, barefoot. I am amazed at the level of raw skill, but surprised when the kids don’t know very basic game play. (Having never played, or had the opportunity to play, in a structured league.) The first time we visited Etoile de Mer, we played a soccer game with them. As soon as the head teacher mentioned the word “football” the entire student body sprang out of their seats, cheering, ready to get started.
Everyone, except the girls.
It upsets me to see the girls not encouraged to play sports. There are no female leagues in Mauritius. Even if a girl wanted to, where could she play? So Victoria and I have been working on a project, aptly titled “Empowering Girls Through Sports.” During the school recess periods we have scheduled structured sport activities. We found that if we separated the girls and boys, the girls were more inclined to participate. So far, it has been a smashing success. Our first lesson at one of the schools involved a basketball tutorial. Victoria flexed an impressive repertoire of beginner basketball drills, and the girls quickly became engaged. Afterwards, the girls told their school teacher that they loved the lesson. During an English prompt later in the week, we found out one of the girls wrote that her favorite memory was learning how to play basketball with us. We have since done basic tutorials in running, soccer, and basic fitness.
It is the work I find most rewarding here. I hope the children enjoy it as much as I do.