For the average child born in a developed country, Christmas, Easter and their birthday bring many opportunities to garner myriad of toys from friends, family and acquaintances alike. Most of these toys do not hold the child's attention for long, or maybe they are abandoned for another favorite" toy, or eventually they are passed on as donations to the thrift store or the less fortunate when a new "fancier" toy is acquired.
However, this little fact does not take away from the utter joy that a child feels when being showered with a gift, regardless of which corner of the world they grew up in. So, when little Fadhili, a young student at the Community Breakthrough Support Mission school in Kimilili, Kenya, received a football as a gift from Jennifer (in USA), the utter joy and excitement that he and his classmates felt at receiving such a gift rivals the excitement any child would feel if they were to stay a month in Santa Claus’s toy workshop or even at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!
Reverend Wasike purchased the deflated football in Nairobi and brought the gift up to Kimilili to deliver it to Fadhili. When the ball was handed over to him, he was in the school compound with his other schoolmates. In its current deflated state, the ball was not much fun to play with, so Fadhili and his friends rushed into town with much exuberance to inflate the ball. With the task completed, the boys headed back to the school compound and were ready to show off their skills on the playing field.
Having never seen an actual football until then, chaos fueled by overwhelming excitement ensued amongst the kids, as one could only expect. Their childlike squeaks and squeals of excitement drew the attention of the adults who were having a meeting nearby, out into the playing field to see what was happening. What greeted them was nothing short of a comical performance by several young boys staging a display of their football skills.
In their excitement and attempts at play, all rules known to the agile game of football were quickly abandoned. There was no order to the game; the boys were jumping for the ball, running up and down the field, left and right, with each player trying his best to kick the ball. They were all so overwhelmed by this new toy that the game they played had no rhyme or reason to it, but then nobody cared. Each boy was trying furiously to shoot at the ball with his little feet or head. Since there was only one ball for the whole lot of them, many spent the day kicking their feet, or shooting their heads into thin air rather than connecting with the ball. But again, this did not matter. Even the ones who never got the chance to hit the ball would have it no other way. This realization did not devalue the fun they had playing with the football.
The teachers were also drawn into the field, as the noise got louder. They tried their best to impose some order to the mayhem. First, they attempted to isolate Fadhili with the ball so he could play alone with it; after all it was his new toy. But, this was a completely unrealistic situation to enforce and everyone could see that it did not and would not work. The other kids were too curious to stay away from Fadhili. The teachers decided it wise to allow the kids to play freely. Fadhili did not mind in the least sharing his new toy either as long as he was elected team captain.
Even though some kind of decorum was established, the teachers had to still be on high alert. As the saying goes, “boys will be boys”, so it did not take long for complaints of injuries and the like to start flocking in. It seemed the neighborhood children were also being affected by the overwhelming joy coming from the school playing field. It wasn’t long before the boys from the neighborhood were also running for the ball along with kids from the school. Everyone wanted to get involved, everyone except the neighborhood girls who stood by watching in awe from a distance. Faster than you could say “hello”, the school playing field became too small for the game at play. The teachers and people watching believed that this was one of the reasons why there were so many injuries amongst the kids. But, other than a scratch here and there, no major injuries were reported. This was quite possibly the best day at school the children ever had! The boys will certainly attest to that.
As for little Fadhili, he proudly left the school compound that day with his new football and a guardian for security. In tow were his friends, some old and some new, but all tending to follow him around town with his new toy. Who knew that something as inconsequential as a football – one of the most undervalued toys of this modern day could bring such joy to a small community, and turn a little boy into a Star. Fadhili will remember this day for a very long time coming.
What a project can achieve if all parties work together, the representative and beneficiaries!
Nakyerongosa village is located in Nakyerongosa parish, Kakiri sub-county, Wakiso district in Uganda. It is found in the North western part of Wakiso district, and is 8 km from Wakiso headquarters. Like many other remote areas, Nakyelongosa lacks most of the basic services such as electricity, tele-communication and health. Nakyerongosa parish has only one main tarmac road that is Hoima road. It is not easily accessible especially during the rainy seasons, and the majority of the roads are seasonal. Due to unavailability of health care facilities, patients have to walk long distances of over 4 kilometres to seek medical care in Kakiri health centre.
Ms. Nakalema Janet, a resident of Busujja village in Nakyerongosa parish narrated her story, thus: “Before the integrated community managed water hygiene and sanitation improvement project started in our village, we tried our level best to keep our homes clean but for the children it was not easy. Young children do not think about washing their hands after going to the latrine. As adults, we also had little knowledge on hygiene and sanitation.” However, Nakalema has a reason to smile.
Nakyerongosa village went online on nabuur and since then many people of goodwill have given the village a lot of ideas through the local village representative. Through the support of COMASA field team, “many things have changed in my home. I can see a very big difference in my family. I have a dish rack for proper washing and storage of utensils, and no longer have to wash on the ground. The latrine has also improved, and is used and maintained properly. The tippy tap which is used for washing hands is always filled with water, and my family is no longer careless with washing their hands after using the latrine”.
“Through the project, I was able to get a rainwater jar, and this has reduced on the money I spend on buying water. In Nakyerongosa parish, we have only 14 wells that are functioning and there are 4,191 people. My children no longer have to walk very far to fetch water. I also spend more time with them unlike before. My husband could not bother to assist me with housework, but thanks to the project, things have changed nowadays and I am currently saved from too much load that I had before. I can find time to rest now.”
“I have noticed that through improving my household, I am no longer spending a lot of money and time caring for sick children. I used to spend almost money on “boda boda” (motorcycle taxi) almost every month to take children to Kakiri Health Centre. I am now sure that when I keep my house and surroundings clean then diseases do not affect my family. I am extremely pleased with the project and my family will continue participating in the project and also maintain what we have acquired. I do appeal to nabuur to continue working with our representative to assist many other households in our parish”.
Ms. Nakalema and some of the beneficiaries are involved in follow up visits to households in the community to assess the impact of the project and to also spread the gospel about hygiene and sanitation improvements.
This article was written by the Local Village Representative as told by Ms. Nakalema Janet.
6 young men line up and start singing. “This is a song about HIV/AIDS”, Mpoya explains. “This group performs at schools, to make the kids aware of HIV/AIDS, education and other subjects.” And they’re good at it. One song later quite a crowd has gathered: students from the adjacent secondary school, to which the boys belong as well.
The songs are followed by a play. A young girls’ father dies of AIDS, her mother can’t take care of her, so her aunt comes in to help. Things are not working out well, the girl drops out of school. Still auntie tries to keep up appearances: she is bossy, manipulative, rolls her eyes, clacks her tongue and shakes her hips to great amusement of the audience. When eventually small bricks are served for dinner, the crowd roars with laughter! Then mother comes in with a representative of Hope Alive Uganda, who sends the girl back to school. All’s well that ends well.
And just in time: clouds have packed over our heads; the wind starts blowing and a thunderstorm breaks loose. Like a grande finale to a powerful play.
Paul Bulenzi and Pelle Aardema visited Kisozi on 19 February 2009