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The following post is courtesy of Lorena Tolle and Pavlo Bereas, Volunteer Project Assistants at the Botswana-Baylor COE and Adult Volunteers for Gaborone Teen Club:
Gaborone Teen Club: Sports, Life Skills and KFC!
A New Teen Member is Welcomed…
On Saturday 30th January, I participated in the long-awaited first Teen Club event of 2010. Being the first one of the year we really didn’t know how many kids would attend. To our surprise, the number of teens was an all-time high – 137 teens to be exact!
The day started out well and was warm already at 8:00 in the morning. First order of business was to fill up some jugs with water so that the group that would be doing sports would have plenty to drink in the Botswana summer heat. As I (Lorena) approached the outdoor faucet, I encountered a young man hiding behind a bush. He told me he was 19 years old and joining us for the first time. He was extremely nervous, hesitant to talk and even more hesitant to join the others.
We talked a little about Teen Club, and as we did I could see his posture relax a little and a smile spread across his face. He stayed with me while I finished my task looking at the other Teen Club members from afar.
I finally finished filling up the jugs just in time for the program to start. My new friend said he would join in for awhile and stayed behind. I pointed him out to one of the Teen Club Teen Leaders and watched the Teen Leader as she approached him with an easy familiarity, sat down with him and got him all set up. Teen Leaders in action – impressive!
Communication Skills with Lorena…
The new volunteers, including me, introduced ourselves and we were warmly welcomed. Once introductions were finished, we were divided into two groups: the younger teens, ages 13 to 15, who were going to play sports, and the older teens, ages 16 to 19, who were going to do life skills. Today’s life skills topic would be communication skills or, more specifically, body language and active listening.
I was assigned to work with the older teens. Once in the classroom we briefly explained the activities and divided into six groups. My job was to “float” around the different groups and assist them in any way they needed. I must say, the experience was overwhelming: so much potential apparent, such comradeship. The activities gave everyone the chance to share feelings and experiences.
As the day progressed, I realized that I was also learning and getting to know the teens: some shy, some confident, some outspoken, some soft spoken, but all working together. It became clear that these teens are extraordinary – they shine not just under the circumstances, but would shine anywhere.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even during the last exercise which consisted of one person leaving the room to think about an experience they would share with the rest. While they were doing this we told the listeners to pretend not to listen by looking in another direction, to seem bored and uninvolved. Emotions ran a little high as we discussed the frustration felt when you’re not being heard, and the kids were relieved to find out that it was nothing personal but part of the exercise.
Finally it was time to wrap up the day. Once more we all reunited in the classroom and once more I was in awe of the Teen Leaders’ ability to work a room – WOW!
Sports and Games with Pavlo…
As Lorena mentioned, the day was already warm by 8:00am. Luckily for us at the sports field the sky was completely overcast which kept the temperature relatively moderate and we were spared from any rain. In a normal situation, dealing with over 80 teenagers can be a tricky task, but having to cross two major roads with that many people in downtown Gaborone is a different thing all together. So in efforts to make that as smooth as possible the teens were instructed on road safety, were also kept into two lines single file and were sandwiched between two groups of volunteers. The rest of the volunteers became pseudo traffic cops and ordered cars to stop for the mass of teens crossing the road. Despite the challenges, the process was smooth and everyone made it to their destination safely.
While at the sports field it was obvious that some of the teens were anxious to start playing football, especially the younger boys. However, we had to wait for the arrival of the sports equipment from one of the doctors bringing it in her car so it was up to the volunteers to come up with something to do in the meantime. The result was a giant game of Red Rover. With help from the Teen Leaders, the teens were organized into two lines of 40 holding hands ready to play. The Teen Leaders advised them on the rules and ways to keep the game safe. While they seemed unenthused at first, after the first run or two, they all really got into it. Cheers and chants were heard from both sides as their teammates either broke through the chain of people or were caught by the other team. After several rounds a winning team was announced. Then it was time for some football, volleyball, basketball and everything else in between. The teens broke off into smaller groups and began their games. It was at this point that I realized I am still terrible at volleyball. It was obvious that football was the sport of choice as it seemed to make up the largest group, but the basketball and volleyball courts were never empty. The best part was that every one of the teens took part – no one sat out of the games even if they were a little shy at first. By the end everyone was in full game mode. After a good hour and a half of free play it was time to line up for some much needed H2O and also time to get all the teens’ contact information for their transport money. Back into two lines single file and back to the clinic where we distributed transport money and a much deserved lunch.
KFC Makes an Exciting Announcement!
After lunch, we were fortunate to have Grace Kewakae from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) join us for a special
surprise for the teens. Towards the end of our closing remarks, one the Teen Leaders introduced Grace and she announced that KFC had purchased sports bags emblazoned with the Teen Club and KFC logos as the first stage of a long-term partnership between our two organizations! We are very grateful to KFC for donating the sports bags – not only for Gaborone Teen Club but for all 5 of our satellite sites as well – nearly 400 bags in all!
Grace distributed the bags along with some other adult volunteers and, as evidenced by everyone’s grateful smiles and excited chatter, they were a big hit!
We all share a common desire to be part of something more, and having the opportunity to be part of this amazing group of teens and volunteers is fulfilling in so many ways. As Grace put it, “The way these teens embrace life so much better than many, the element of togetherness and belonging amongst them is beautiful.” I think we can all agree with that!
As we all went our own ways after Teen Club dismissed, I (Lorena) spotted my friend from that morning wearing his new bag on his back. I asked him if he had enjoyed Teen Club and he gave me a big smile with a “Yes!” and a thumbs up!
Belonging – what a great feeling!