September 11, 2011

Give a child a dream.

Here's the thing, I have a choreographed victory dance that rivals Cirque du soleil, it changes lives. The tragedy is that I am no good at soccer. So, the youth of Senegal have not seen my victory jive. I taught a few kids how to play catch. We even got as far as playing 'pickle', but baseball is equipment intensive and trying to describe the gazillion rules of the game got intense. So.........I need a basketball court.

I figure that my natural hugeness, and fact that I have been expose to basketball since childhood, will allow me to dominate some unsuspecting middle schoolers.

Exhibit AThis was last year at the high school in Linguere. Previous generations of Peace Corps volunteers wrote grants to refurbish the court, and started a basketball program in partnership with the high school's gym teachers. In hopes to introduce the sport to the kids in the village, they held a few clinics where kids from the villages came into Linguere for a day of practice and scrimmages. Just look at me owning the paint.

Due to a lack of funding, teacher strikes and coordination, we were unable to continue transporting groups of kids into Linguere for clinics. I have not heard the end of this from students. They tell me constantly how much they enjoyed the clinics, and ask when we are starting again. Leaping from the foundation of previous work and harnessing the fervor of the students, my fellow Peace Corps volunteers and I have put together this gem--Linguere Basketball Initiative

Through the Initiative, we hope to construct three NCAA regulation sized basketball courts, one in Barkedji (my charming village), one in Diaglie (home to Kim Hall, my nearest neighbor) and one in Ngaraff (home to Emily Naftalin). While constructing the courts is the majority of what makes up the intimidatingly large budget, we hope it is only the beginning. The courts will add to our larger mission of fostering the development of strong, confident leaders of tomorrow. Basketball will act as a vehicle through which teamwork, communication and gender equality can be learned.

The thought of kids playing and laughing while they shoot hoops is soul filling. When I was in school I remember days when I had to rush from softball to girl scouts to dance practice. As far as extra curricular activities go here, it's soccer on a sandy field for boys and any club that I am running for girls. By giving the students a court, we may be giving them a hobby, a passion, a set of goals.

This is my Environmental Club. We just made a tree nursery, ie we mixed dirt and poop and put it in sacks. Look how much fun we were having. Imagine the reaction to an inter class basketball or volleyball scrimmage. Epic. Cirque du soleil victory dance type epic.

We recently returned from a dinner meeting with NBA's West Africa representative. That's right, Peace Corps is pooping in a hole, eating with my hand and pitching projects over drinks. Thanks to our country director's persistence and connections we now have a very beneficial relationship with the NBA and more specifically SEEDS (ie fatty check on the way and potential celebrity appearance at trainings in our villages!!!). The rest is up to us; we still need financial help. Anything you can give will go a long way in helping make our project a reality.

Thank you in advance. Also, while we are fundraising I can't see who has contributed, but be assured that when I get the list at the end, all who donated will receive a hand crafted, beautifully colored, Albright original thank you card. Depending on your generosity it may even have glitter.

Lots of Love.

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