Pride eyes: Lilongwe, Malawi
- Words: Olivia Cooper
- Images: Matea Ilieva
- Edited by: Michael Hendricks
After a fun-filled, sun-soaked week in Tofo, the group flew to Lilongwe for our 2-week program here. First, we’d be taking a retraining week to assess our progress so far, as Pride coaches, and establish what steps we could take to improve going forward, after which we’d get back to coaching children in the local community, applying our refreshed skills.
With our Operations Director (and former Project Manager and Pride member), Rory McGee, taking charge for the first week, we quickly delved into reviewing the past two months’ work. BMIS (Bishop Mackenzie International School) was kind enough to lend us a classroom and sports fields for Monday and Tuesday, where we were able to work on perfecting our coaching techniques, both in theory and practice. It also allowed our new Pride members, Warren and Jay, to contribute heavily from day one, bringing their personal approaches to the group.
On Thursday, we delivered our first coach education session in Lilongwe, meeting the local teaching teams we’d be working with the following week. We also started working closely with Wordsworth Rashid, BPF’s Development Officer for Lilongwe.
“I have enjoyed this time with Bhubesi Pride Foundation and their coach education sessions to the maximum. Working alongside this group, and all individuals, has shown us how we can deal with the children in a friendly and effective manner.”
Christina Kalingo, buddy coach
After a successful week of coach education in Maputo – and knowing we would get to run further sessions for the Lilongwe buddy coaches here – we methodically planned what would be the most beneficial way forward for the buddy coaches, the community and ourselves. We focused primarily on the way our buddy coaches delivered sessions to the children, incorporating our PRIDE values by way of concepts like positive reinforcement, emphasising the importance of planning sessions and using demonstration while coaching, also bringing their refereeing skills up a notch.
With a full week in between these coach education sessions, it enabled us to work alongside our buddy coaches and make friendly connections. By the second session, we could see how our coach empowerment approaches had already made an impact on how the buddy coaches addressed problems and worked with the children.
“There is so much impact in these rural areas that we carry out with the children through rugby. What we hope to do now is push it out into other areas locally where we can continue getting children involved in rugby.”
Yotam London, buddy coach
During our first week in Lilongwe, Bhubesi Pride Foundation Founder and MD, Richard Bennett, arrived in Lilongwe with two representatives from Rugbydump. Grant Constable (Rugbydump founder and BPF Trustee) and Peteso Cannon would be following, filming and interviewing us while in Malawi for a documentary on the charity’s work.
Before long, our second week in Malawi was set to begin, and we learned of the set-up for our week in the schools: three 1-hour sessions with three different age groups, U-10s, U-13s and U-15s. As always, the children’s energy and enthusiasm was outstanding and we got to see real developments in the children’s athletic abilities, especially the U-10s. Working with the U-10s was one of the program’s greatest challenges, from a skill-building perspective, as they had the least experience playing rugby. However, this was exciting for the coaches, as it presented an opportunity to introduce the children to the game and engender the same passion for the sport that we’ve all enjoyed throughout our lives. Our youngest players called for a back-to-basics approach, and that made seeing their impressive progress on tournament day all the more rewarding.
“Rugby has helped me learn how to interact with others and has also helped me to improve my life. I have enjoyed this week so much and only love the sport more. Next year I will be going to secondary school where rugby isn’t played as much. I would love to have rugby introduced into the secondary school so I can continue to play the sport.”
Innocent Benela, U-15s player, John C primary school
Whilst coaching schools in the morning, one afternoon our coaches were able to participate in some one-time sessions with secondary schools to introduce them to rugby. These were essentially ‘taster’ sessions meant to show them the game and get their students interested in pursuing the sport. The afternoon was a huge success, with many kids approaching us about rugby clubs around the area they could join. With Wordsworth’s help, we were also able to send coaches out to work with two local rugby clubs, The Lions and The Hippos. Both sessions had widely varying ages and skill levels, but each ended with tangible progress made.
“There is a future for Malawian rugby. There is passion within the children and what I feel is I have a vision for a very strong Malawian rugby team. We are surrounded by strong African teams and Malawi is coming up, but it starts with school rugby and that’s what we are doing. There is a bright future for Malawi with the help of Bhubesi Pride Foundation.”
Wordsworth Rashid, BPF Development Officer, Lilongwe
LILONGWE COACHING PROGRAM IN NUMBERS
- Number of participating schools/communities: 5 (Demonstration School, Mngwangwa, Chilombo, John C and Mzumanzi primary schools)
- Number of children coached: 387
- Boys / girl ratio: 53 / 47
- Percentage of children participating in 3 or more sessions: 71%
- Number of participating local coaches: 17
- Number of participating local coaches awarded a BPF coach certificate: 17
The team held a leadership and development workshop with G4S Malawi at BMIS. The workshop engaged the G4S Malawi employees who would later help out on tournament day, catering food, managing the hundreds of spectators and participating in presentations and speeches. G4S Malawi also featured prominently at our coaching sessions throughout the week, working on giving the kids life skills, focusing primarily on the dangers of cholera and how to prevent it.
“The session we had has really benefited us [the G4S Malawi team] a lot. We spoke about the learning points and had so many examples in real life, both personally and in the workplace. We all want to share the same with those that were not present.
The children, they just need love. When we come in and we just embrace them, that’s a feeling that you leave with the children, and that love, it goes deeper than we can see with our own eyes. Just the interaction itself, that is making them all feel important; it’s something special.”
Bridgette Sinthampi, National Account Manager, G4S Malawi
Another highlight; after a huge tournament day, we got a glimpse into the future of BPF in Lilongwe, going for a quick orientation of a recently purchased plot of land on which the charity will be building a rugby club and community centre in the coming years. While the plans are in the early stages, one thing is certain, Bhubesi Pride Foundation is here to stay in Lilongwe, and we hope to continue empowering children to change their lives through sport.
This location, above, is the 7-acre plot of land on which BPF plans to build a community rugby club
Amid all the hard work in Lilongwe, we used the free weekend in between our two coaching weeks in Lilongwe to visit Lake Malawi, one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen on our expedition so far. We had a larger group than usual, with the welcome additions of Richard, Rory, Grant and Peteso, but the growth of the ‘Bhubesi family’ made the experience. We filled our days with beach volleyball, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving, all with the idyllic waterfront as our setting.
Malawi has been an incredible, eye-opening country visit for me and my fellow Pride members, with a world of potential going forward. Everyone on the team now looks forward to returning to see what the charity will be able to accomplish.
For now though, it’s onwards to Zambia!