Sunday, May 8, 2011

Please Don't Eat the Play Dough!

It didn't happen to occur to us to give that instruction. When no one was looking, a hungry little girl did eat some play dough. And yes, it makes you sick. Immediately!

This happened at the Fun Day in Kamatipa, a compound near Kitwe that Jenny has been working with. She has organized a women's self-help group there. Based on their concern for the many orphans and vulnerable children not in school, they have been working on a project to start a recreation program for community children. It is in the planning and early implementation stage. The Fun Day was an event to celebrate progress and to provide a taste of what will be available when the playground/recreation center is in operation.

Adrian, our chaplain, several of my students and I went along to help Jenny, her local group of women and her two Zambian social workers connected with this project. We, the food, the drink, the sports equipment and the games all piled into the pickup at 7:30 am for a crowded ride to Kamatipa. Jenny had to make a second trip for the drums and drummers, since there was not enough space the first time around.

Once we arrived, children from toddlers through teens started flocking to the field. They could choose a soccer clinic, a girls' game of dodge-ball, a small kids' circle for "duck, duck, goose' (in Bemba), a game with flying discs, some organized races and tag, group jump rope, drumming and dancing. At least 200 children came. After awhile, we set up a coloring station with African images and designs, a puzzle area with big jigsaw floor puzzles, a play dough center, checkers, bean bag toss, and other games.

The jump ropes were made by tying lengths of rubber belting together into a large circle. Then two of the student helpers would stand a distance apart pulling the rope circle into a double strand held taut at ankle level. As the girls lined up to jump, the rope was moved higher and higher, finally to waist height. The ability of the little girls to jump over and through the stretchy rope was amazing.

The checker boards were painted on panels cut from cardboard boxes, and the "checkers" were two different colors of bottle caps. Recycling was the source of many of the materials used in this Fun Day. Some of the children had brought their own balls made at home from plastic bags. And I was amused by the messages on some of the recycled (used) tee shirts I saw on different kids. One little girl's top said "I love shopping." Another instructed "Recycle my little brother". A shirt commemorating the Band Camp Bean Eating Contest was on another youth. Then there were the usual shirts celebrating locations such as Las Vegas and institutions such as New York University. One local shirt advocated "Know Your HIV Status" with the message "Live Positively" on the back.

At the end of the morning, the kids lined up for a cup of munkoyo (a drink rather like horchata, but made from mealie meal), a fritter, and a candy. The adults had juice drink and banana cake cupcakes I had made for the occasion.

We returned to MEF exhausted but refreshed by the success of the day. No one needed first aid, there was enough food for everyone to be fed, the joy of the kids was palpable, and even the adults seemed to have had a good time at the Fun Day.

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