On my arrival to Magoumi, I inherited a Girl’s Club with a dedicated president named Benedicte. The girls had done some discussions on Health, etc., but the core of the club was a football team. So now, every Sunday and Wednesday, I meet up with the girls for practice from 3-5:30 PM. Practicing and scrimmaging is fun, yes, but it’s nice to have a goal in mind as well. Thus, I promised the girls that we’d organize a match against a nearby team just before winter break in December. Ha! Easier said than done.
I had hoped to play a game against Ouedeme, a village within walking distance of Magoumi that already has a girls club called “Les Etoiles Brillantes.” Unfortunately, they never got organized, so when a volunteer, Mark, in a town about a 40-50 minute car ride away mentioned the girl’s team HE’d inherited, we quickly made plans for a game. Mark had the great idea that the girls would also give a short speech on a topic relevant to the club. Game plan: Pay for a car to transport the team to Magoumi, girls give short speeches, and then play the game. Done and done.
Oh wait. The girls require food and water as well. Ok, that makes sense. In the U.S. we give kids orange slices at half time and snacks after the game. But in Benin, food means preparing rice and sauce and cauldrons the size of the pots in Disney’s Fantasia. We’re preparing sauce with fish that is. We MUST give them fish. It wouldn’t be good if we didn’t. What would they think of us? Ok, ok, sounds good. Done and done.
Oh wait. The girls in Magoumi also want to but ice and sugary packets to make juice. This mentioned in passing while interrupting my lesson with a 6e class. Oy. Ok, ok, done and done. AND, there are some teachers who’re coming to the game. They can’t eat just rice and sauce like the students. We need to make them sandwiches. With the more expensive fish. Oyyyy.
On Marks end of transporting his team he found a driver to take the girls from Dassa to Magoumi. Great. Done and done. Wait, now the drive wants MORE money. Ok, ok. Done and done. Wait, now the driver is 2 hours late. Ok, Ok, here he is. Wait, now the police guard en route wants a bribe to let the vehicle pass. Oyyyy.
I was slightly overwhelmed at the increasing demands of each day. But, the girls also showed significant motivation. They got together and petitioned the teachers to contribute money for the food, collecting a total of 6,000 cfa. We made our shopping list:
Tomatoes (fresh and canned paste), Hot pepper, 2 L of peanut oil, lauriat leaves, garlic, Chicken Maggie Cubes (1000 cfa worth!), 10k rice, onions, bread, ice, sugar, orange drink packets, carrots, 1k of salmon fish, and 2k of Sylvie fish.
I feel like that list looks remarkably simple on paper, but in reality it involves walking round and round in a market under the beating sun, hauling around a cement bag of heavy ingredients, greeting people and bargaining. It also involved the day of the match, a trip by me to buy the frozen fish, pick up 30 small loaves of fresh bread, and two slabs of ice the length of my arm. And then holding this while riding on a motorcycle. Not too complicated. Haha. I guess it’s not that remarkable because that’s just what everyday life is like, but it feels mildly stressful at times.
It was really fun to go to market with the girls, watch them make decisions about what to get, if the price was alright, etc. It’s a big responsibility to cook for around 50 people and they did a marvelous job. I was so proud of them!
The day of the game, I delivered all the foods to Benedicte’s house (her mother graciously offered her house for the preparation of the feast!) They worked all day preparing, carried the food to the school and around 2:30 pm, the other team rolled in. Picture twenty girls packed into the back of a semi-covered pick-up, singing songs, bursting out of the truck with their energy and happiness. It was SO exciting.
The girls ate well and then their club president spoke about girl’s leadership qualities followed by a talk by my girls on sexual harassment at school, how to avoid it, and what they can do to combat it. At 4 pm the match began and it was SO SO exciting! There were so many people watching, cheering, and coaching the girls. Girls supporting girls, papas and brothers cheering! It was exhilarating! The second half consisted of my Magoumi girls dominating with lots of shots on goal. But alas, no goals were scored. The match ended with 0-0. I would have LOVED to win, but it was still incredibly fun and rewarding.
There are many kinks that still need working out. Some of the younger girls never got to play despite my many attempts at encouragement and sometimes yelling that the girls who actually CAME to practice consistently should be playing more than those who came only once of twice. Throughout these 3 months, I have also struggled with my role as a facilitator. It’s ultimately their club, they need to make decisions themselves, and do drills at practice of their own volition. Americans won’t always be in Magoumi, so it’s the girls who are the leaders and decision-makers. But at the same time, I feel like they need to apply a little more discipline to their practices.
I hope the game was a fulfillment of the hard work they put in, but that it will also serve as a motivator for them to work even harder. All in all it was very rewarding and felt like an amazing Christmas gift to the girls of Magoumi and myself.
P.S. I’m 24 now!!!!!! Wooooo! Also, football in this post refers to soccer…but I’m sure you got that. Also, if there’re any topics you’d like me to cover, let me know!