Benin West Africa - Donating Soccer Balls
Mike Mitchell, Dave Stahl and Jana Tomasello, arrived in Africa on March 23, 2010 and traveled overland through the countries of Ghana and Togo to Cotonou, Benin. After a day of preparation at Peace Corps headquarters they departed on an 11-day road trip to five rural regions. Traveling over 3000 miles, they visited Parakou, in central Benin, Kandi & Kerou in the north, returning south through Bante and Lalo and finally returning to Cotonou. Click to see a map of Benin, West Africa.
Designated Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) had planned activities in each region. The communities, schools and organizations visited were anticipating the arrival of Project Play and attendance at events was beyond expectations. Each community visited brought unique and rewarding experiences.
In Bante an estimated 600 people participated in a single event. In Kandi children were bused to an event from outlying villages. For most, it was the first time traveling out of their village and was a catalyst for creating an inter-village league.
Children were overwhelmed by the opportunity to simultaneously participate in juggling contests and drills, something generally taken for granted in America. In Lalo the Project Play team was serenaded and paraded through a village before festivities got underway. Project Play was awed by the genuine gratitude and unbelievable joy expressed by the children of Benin.
PCVs played an integral role in facilitating effective distribution of soccer balls in Benin. As a result, Project Play Africa was able to connect and network with real advocates – people passionate and committed to making a difference for youth in their communities.
Plans were created to establish local leagues, develop camps and utilize the soccer balls. Additionally, over sixty PCVs posted in remote areas distributed balls in their villages that Project Play could not visit.
An in-country replenishment program was established to support new programs and to replace worn balls. This is a big step to creating sustainable programs in Benin. Project Play plans to return to Benin and expand to another country in West Africa in 2011.
The availability of soccer balls will clearly have a positive and lasting impact in Benin.
"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." -Aristotle
About Benin, Africa
The Republic of Benin is a country in West Africa on the Gulf of New Guinea. It borders on Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; it's short coastline to the south leads to the Bight of Benin. It is the 23rd poorest country in the world. This translates to 40% of the population living under the international proverty line of US$1.25 per a day. The population is 8.9 million; 50% of the population is under 18 years old and 30% is under the age of 5 years old. Life expectancy is 56 years.