Our two courts were finished just in time for us to hold opening ceremonies at both before we left Lusaka, making for a great finish to an amazing six weeks.
Although the majority of the work at Fountain of Hope was completed a couple of weeks ago, the finishing touches took a little while longer. Over several days the ball catchers, bollards, lines and basketball posts were added or finished off. With the court so close to completion it was hard to keep the children off! The top coat of bitumen is also proving slow to set and is still soft in the afternoon sun, making it necessary to delay full match play for another week.
At Kaunda Square the final work included finishing off the new drain, replacing the concrete apron for the outside tap, installing bollards and dressing the lower slope adjacent to the court with aggregate. Despite talking through the line painting plan with the contractor several times, they still added one too many lines! A last minute repair job with bitumen solved this in time for the opening.
We were delighted to open the courts in front of the children, teachers, netball and basketball coaches and directors of Sport in Action and the church at Kaunda Square. Jamie and Alexa got the lucky jobs of cutting the ribbons and officially handing the courts over to their new owners. It was humbling to hear the directors speak about how the courts will benefit the local communities and it brought us back to the reasons for being here in the first place.
Over the last six weeks we have discussed the appropriateness of being here and spending money on a recreational facility when adjacent to it are unhygienic toilets and dysfunctional taps. Many of the local children come from poor families, some of whom may eat only one meal a day. Unemployment is high and we were asked several times for help finding jobs or ways into the UK. HIV and alcoholism are also common.
While it may therefore seem naive and misplaced to spend our £17,000 on courts instead of measures to tackle these severe social problems, those problems are exactly why courts are needed. Such facilities provide a place for children to play, exercise, develop a skill, make friends and, most importantly, stay off the streets and away from drugs, alcohol and crime. Some children may, and already have been inspired to become professional athletes or take up leading and coaching in their communities because of the opportunities offered by Sport in Action.
We believe this year’s project has been successful in creating more assets for Sport In Action to continue their great work. We hope this will lead to expansion and development of the project from all parties involved in the years to come and we are already working on ways to improve the project’s sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness.
Thanks to our donors for making the project possible and to all those who have helped along the way – we are incredibly grateful.