Robins youth coach Pete Haynes updates us all on his Rwanda adventure as football attempts to change lives.
For quite an unfortunate reason, this blog is a day later than it should be.
This is very similar to the fact we have arrived a day later than we should have done due to flight cancellation from Heathrow to Amsterdam for the first leg of our journey to Kigali, Rwanda. Instead of arriving on African soil Saturday night, we arrived yesterday (Monday) morning, having travelled via Nairobi, Kenya. But I won't bore you anymore with flight details!
The Football Futures Changing Lives Programme is designed to develop the coaching and leadership skills of people in a country, using football as a catalyst for development. This year, the aim is to deliver a Coach Leadership Programme to 20 new young coaches/leaders in Rwanda, as well as delivering a new course to the 20 young coaches/leaders of last year, with their programme based on the Vauxhall Mash-Up.
Consequently, this blog, and the next later on the week will focus on the work we are doing out here to develop leadership and coaching skills, as well as football, by building on the foundations put in place last year.
After landing and checking into the Hotel Des Milles Collins, we visited the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in the country's capital, Kigali. Having studied the Genocide for Geography A-Level, it has been something I have had a lot of interest in and staying in the hotel renowned for saving many lives during this time (I recommend "Hotel Rwanda" a watch for anyone interested in modern history), it was an unforgettable experience. The atrocities that were committed just 20 years ago are very hard to comprehend, but the fact that there is now an education centre shows how the country is trying to grow and develop by understanding and learning from its past, and not ignoring it. Even so, the memorial is a reminder of how power can influence people and the effect it can have, with the 250,000 mass burial at the memorial being enough for you to realise the scale of the event; especially when you read that this site is one of a handful.
To go from this harrowing experience to visiting a local orphanage that afternoon which is set up and run by SOS, you realise how far the country has come. The hope and love of life, even in a place where many of the children and young people are there as a consequence of the Genocide, was a reminder as to how far this country has come in such a short space of time. The orphanage houses around 150 young people in a village of 10 houses, with a mother and an auntie. When they have become educated and prepared enough for the "real world", normally around the age of 22, they leave the orphanage to embark on the rest of their lives.
The experience was a truly humbling one. Many have said it before, but until you are in an environment where even the necessities for life are scarce, you don't truly appreciate what you have back home and how fortunate you are.
However, this didn't seem to effect the children who were eager to play football and have fun. Therefore, our challenge was to deliver a session (of which we had 30 seconds to plan!) to an unknown number of players, in a cow field, with people who spoke very little English! Dom Best and I teamed up and we soon realised that as long as the children were playing football, they were happy. Their love and enjoyment of the game was infectious; happiness that you rarely get to see. In that single hour and a half alone, not only did I learn a lot about me as a person and as a coach, but also as to the power that football has as a catalyst for social development. I think the photos speak for themselves.
Today, I met the 4 young coaches I will mentor for the rest of the week through their course and delivery. However, when I say young, I was the youngest in my group by 5 years! One, Diddy, is 24 and wanted to know if I was married and had children, and struggled to understand when I said I had neither. Similar to Hemplova (29, a lawyer) with a husband and child, Jade (33, a teacher) with a husband and 3 children, and Gabby (30, unemployed) with a wife and 2 children. My Kinyarwanda (the national language) is slowly getting there, but their English on the most part is good and we found a common ground in a passion of coaching football. All of them, whether voluntary or as a part time job, are involved in playing and coaching the sport in Rwanda.
We delivered a 6 hour leadership course including the qualities of what makes a good leader/coach, ideas for warm-ups and sessions which we delivered to demonstrate. Furthermore, we discussed how to plan and run a festival, with the desire and willingness to learn again being something I hadn't seen before and reflects the country's want to educate people, just like at the Genocide Memorial.
Tomorrow we will find out their understanding of the course as the coaches we have mentored will deliver to a local primary school. The idea is that there is longevity in what we are delivering because, rather than us as coaches delivering all the time in schools during the week, we will assist the Rwandan coaches of the future so that they will grow in confidence, understanding and knowledge, so that when we leave, they will continue to coach based on what they have learnt. This longevity is key because not only will we be changing and educating the lives of these coaches, but the knock on effect of them working with more children than we could ever work with will hopefully change, inspire and develop the lives of these children, educating them along the way. They have the love and passion for the game, the rest should follow...