Wednesday, January 16, 2013 (Day 7)
Makeni's scraggy stray dogs lay lazily by the side of the road; many still sleeping or just about mustering up enough energy to give themselves a half decent morning clean with their smelly tongues. The last of the school children are on their way to class; dressed in immaculate bright blue or red or green school uniforms. This is the best part of the day. I am walking to work not long after eight o'clock. The air is still fresh and low on Saharan sand and there is still a light breeze with a hint of coolness in it which makes everything feel comfortable, optimistic and mellow. Not a hint of the awful sweat I will suffer later in the day. It is a ten-minute walk to the Restless Development office in the New London district of Makeni where I live. Restless Development is a youth-led development agency which has kindly allowed volunteers from the Collective to use some of their office space to charge computers and phones, to write reports, conduct meetings and, if I can find out how, check emails in some internet friendly side room. For me it is all about the electricity. That is the single most problematic issue I have thus far experienced because I have no sooner charged my computer when it is flat again after a couple of hours of computer use at the house. The generator is on at home from around 7 until 8 in the evening so it is a small window of opportunity for working and/or reading in the light or taking advantage and having a decent bucket shower. Last night I wasted some of that blessed 60 minutes with a post-work Guinness on the porch, listening to the locals go about their lives after the sun went down.
Bob meets me at Restless Development at 9.30. One of the CBF co-ordinators is going to take us to see the preparation work for an upcoming community project. Themed community projects are another part of the work of the CBF and participation in these is compulsory for all teams competing in the league.
It is almost 11 when we get to the school and unfortunately turning up late means we cannot meet the head because he is in a teachers' meeting. A lack of transport means a lot of time is wasted walking from school to school.
At the second school we visit, the head is very happy with CBF's contribution and is keen to continue supporting us and for the project to keep improving. Several kids ask how they can join the league while other older children inquire if an Under 16s league might be considered once the kids have graduated from the under 14s level. Currently, once they have finished at under 14s the CBF has no further involvement with the children, which seems like a bit of a shame on first impressions. There is a danger that a rival under 16 league might be set up which would be based purely on winning and 'farming' the best players, rather than with the intention of offering the kids the opportunity to build a better life for themselves through sport and education.
Back at the office I write up blogs and reports for four hours. It is cool in here and blessed with reliable electricity. I can even make a cup of coffee or tea when I feel like it. During the afternoon, I meet young Ahmed Kamara, who wanders into the office and is absolutely delighted to have his first ever type of a computer keyboard, writing his name and then changing it to bigger and different fonts until the name 'Ahmed' seems to take on a brand new, much more significant identity. He also clicks on some travel photos and videos of me in Patagonia and grabs his friend Thomas to show him the unbelievable sight of an Argentine glacier. Thomas hangs around a bit longer and ends up playing Bejewelled, eventually departing after getting the hang of it and smashing his previous record of 750 points with a whopping 12,250. He leaves a happy looking young boy.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a seven-week voluntary placement in January 2013.