Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where Will the Children Play?

It’s a wild scene here at the PC-Senegal Linguere regional headquarters!  We’re nutty with excitement over a new project we have in the works.

First, a brief history: not long before I arrived in country, the previous generation of Linguere volunteers worked with local counterparts to develop  a basketball program at the high school here in town.   They raised funds to build a regulation-sized court on the campus and put together a monthly training camp that coached students in basketball skills and trained local educators to run the program autonomously.  It was a hit, to say the least.  I was lucky enough to install in my village just in time to participate in the culminating tournament, which showcased the phenomenal skill progression of students and trainers alike.  It was a beautiful event, pitting 42 confident and happy high schoolers - 21 girls and 21 boys  - against one another in a tournament that exemplified everything from focused athletic ability to a genuine fervor for organized sport.

Inspired by the synergy we witnessed that day – and knowing that it provided only minimal insight into the world of possibilities for harnessing the athletic abilities and enthusiasm of these kids – my peers and I have put together a plan for building on this work.  Our project – the Linguere Youth Basketball Initiative – aims to build basketball courts in three Linguere satellite villages: Ngaraff (home to yours truly and all the smiling faces that have colored the photos on this blog), Barkedji (home to Ann Marie Albright) and Diaglie (home to Kim Hall).  The courts will be a foundation for a larger mission in the region – one of building leadership and teamwork skills in confident, driven youth across the region.  We plan to do this through a careful progression of skill acquisition at a young age and gradual, well-directed fostering of these skills as the students grow and progress through grade-levels. 

The potential for this work truly makes my little heart go all a-flutter.   I can only imagine the manic joy, the eagerness, the zeal that will spill from the kids of Ngaraff when they have an actual athletic facility on which to unleash their yearning for anything that involves running around, playing, and challenging their peers. (And I have no doubt that this will be duplicated in Barkedji and Diaglie).  While the looks on their faces would be enough, the possibilities extend so far beyond this.  We’ll hold trainings in the individual villages and coordinate camps and tournaments across the region.  And not just in basketball, but in volleyball, handball, and other fitness-related activities.  In addition, the paved terrain will provide a meeting space for the villages, and add aesthetic appeal and morale in places that are in need of such a boost – an outcome not to be understated. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these courts will open up opportunities for a whole range of gender development activities - an undertaking that is near and dear to my sensibilities. 

You’ve probably guessed by now that the reason I’m previewing this project here – instead of giving details on completed activities – is that we’re currently engaged in a full-gale fundraising effort that involves YOU!   We have established a secured a Peace Corps Partnership “grant” (the same as the one that I launched in association with my health clinic project), so it calls on our friends and family in the states to find the funding.
Until it gets chipped away at, the total price tag on the website below might seem intimidating, but we're receiving support from a number of external donors.  Our PC-Senegal Country Director and an NBA-affiliated organization in Dakar has obtained a guarantee from the NBA that they will contribute a significant amount of the overall cost.  But we still need lots of help from our friends, family, and personal connections back home!

Any amount that you could contribute would be appreciated beyond what I’m able to express here. To make a donation or learn more about the project, please check out the PCPP site here: