Mark Dull and his wife Jennifer first visited Bondo in October of 2011 and were moved by what they saw. There are over 80,000 orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in this district surrounding Bondo, Kenya, and it is estimated that 50% of the school children are orphans, especially due to the very high prevelance of HIV/AIDS rate (24%) in the area. Despite the poverty and social stratification in the area, Mark and Jennifer found themselves in a warm and welcoming community with many spirited children with a passion for soccer.
Out of this grew the idea to organize football tournaments to increase these children's sense of engagement with their peers and community. Mark, Jennifer, and our friends at ICO are determined to help the Bondo Community achieve its potential to empower the orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC’s) of the schools’ population, and to mobilise local government ministries to gain insights into the needs of these children and their families. All the while, creating a bit of fun and excitement for everyone through something that they love.
One of the wishes the the community had bestowed to Mark and Jennifer was to provide them with some soccer balls. They rallied the help of their daughter’s school in Fall River, NS, mobilizing Canadian kids to help their worldy neighbours. The kids organized and put on a craft fair and raised funds for the kids, and 50 used soccer balls were donated by a supporter to be brought back to Kenya.
The "Together We Can!" Tournament:
In Jan 2012 ICO announced that a donor had offered to fund a Football Initiative to benefit ICO Communities and as a result of some hard work and planning, the “Together We Can!” tournament was born.There have been 32 teams formed from Standard (ie., Grades) 1 through 8, combining players of two schools in Bondo with differing ability levels. 16 of these teams are female and 16 teams are male, with a total of 480 students playing.
Although schools in Bondo already had their own soccer teams, there were only about 30 children who are able to play out of primary schools consisting of 800 children. The best players got chosen, because competition amongst schools is high. The best players however are children that are not orphans or OVC's, but are mostly children that come from well situated homes or that have a ball to practice with, and who do not have the disadvantages of caring for orphaned siblings or other adult responsibilities. By putting 2 schools together, the competition between schools is gone. In chosing the teams for the tournament a 1000 children were playing. Out of those thousand 480 children at all ability levels are put into teams. Teams where the strong players, now help the weaker ones - each child has an equal oppurtunity and a chance to work together helping their peers. The whole community is coming to watch, the parents are helping by preparing food, and the linesmen are chosen from the grade 8 classes.
Talk about empowerment, pride and community! We ultimately hope that this also opens communication paths and insights to the community's further needs, and helps the children feel better about themselves and what they can accomplish.