What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Changing more than the game

So we are making progress with the concept of building an athletics (track) program in northern Sierra Leone.  Since my original post on it I've sent some questions to Kaps, and a lot has transpired.  An email was quickly sent from Stefan (who I cced), and as it turns out, most of what he has been doing over the last two years has been writing proposals for this type of work.  He also seems to know his way around funding circles in Germany which could certainly benefit any proposal.  The addition of multiple possible funding sources could broaden the scope of any project.  Building a track can be expensive, and an all-weather surface would be ideal in a country where they get as much as 580 cm (230 in) of rain a year in some places and averages 315 cm (125 in).  The possibility could exist that for much of the rainy season the facility might basically be unusable without the right surface.  More funding could make all-weather a more viable option (though still unlikely).

The first thing to discuss really though should be the email that Kaps sent me.  He was very positive on the idea and is going to work on the questions I asked about.  He also recommended that we do it in Mathinka community as there are no sports facilities there, and the government is not willing to sponsor any either.  He also said that in the whole of the northern province there is really no "standard sporting field" even though there are plenty of "young stars" that would be interested.

Bombali District, Northern Province
I unfortunately can't find Mathinka on a map for the Northern Provinces though.  I did find a quote that located it in the Bombali district that said it was a village.  However, I also saw that Child Help already has a project there and the map label related to Child Help's project (not on their website) that shows it as being right next to Freetown.  There is a town named Matinka (without the "h") just north of Port Loko, but while in the Northern Province, this is not in Bombali and not near Child Help's possible project site.   So I can not be certain at all where or what size this place is.

The location and the relative size of the location would be of importance to the planning of a project.  Obviously if it does not have much reach in terms of population then a cinder track would be of best use.  If this community is however an area within the city of Makena (100,000 pop) then it would certainly be well worth looking to get a facility that can handle more children and young adults.  I don't know if this makes sense, but building a track facility can be very simple just as it can be very complicated.  With a flat area, several volunteers could go out and cordon off a track area and distances, put up a fence and bleachers, and start running.  At the same time the project could also be a professional facility with an all weather surface.  With the more complex and expansive the facility though, the more 'capital' it takes to build - and I am not just talking about financial, but negotiating, political, good-will, entrepreneurial capital, etc.  If you work really hard to build a great track facility in a village of 5000 people, it is great for those people living there, but you are not getting a good cost-benefit scenario for your effort and/or dollar/euro.  The next time you try to build a facility, perhaps in a more populated location, you may end up with less help and/or money due to donor fatigue or lack of continued interest.  Capital is unfortunately not infinite thus efficiency must be thought of.      

But we shall see, if Child Help already has a project in this community, they must have a good understanding of the area itself.  I just hope that it is a place that would benefit the most amount of children for the cost.

On the whole though, this is a great turn of events as I see it.  I'd love to help them put together a proposal, and with Stefan in Germany as well, it really broadens our capabilities and possibilities.  So we shall see what Kaps comes back with regarding those questions.  I am going to send him another round of them now as well in an effort to address some of the concerns raised here.

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