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...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Opportunities and Considerations

So a while ago, my chief sustainable living and building advisor (my cousin Rachel) sent me a project funding notification that had come across her desk at Solar Energy International (SEI).  It was a really good concept and one that would certainly work well with my experience: "Gamechangers".  It is a sports micro-venture fund jointly sponsored by Architecture for Humanity and Nike which is "seeking proposals for the final round of funding to support the construction of sports facilities offering programs that tackle social issues in the community."  They have $500,000 of money to be allocated in $25,000 and smaller allotments, for projects that should address one or more of the following key areas:
  • Improved access to opportunities to participate in sport
  • Removal of physical, economic, social and gender barriers to participation in sport
  • Improved social cohesion
  • Improved physical activity
  • Provides innovative alternatives to play spaces for communities that lack resources
  • Positively affects the environment or reduces negative environmental impact of sport-related initiatives
  • Generates opportunities for social and economic empowerment

Just after I received this email I sent it to Kaps with Child Help as I thought it might be something of interest for his organization.  I figured I could help on something they came up with, but hadn't been to Sierra Leone so didn't feel I could really come up with concrete proposals on what to do.  I got another email from Kaps a few days ago asking if I'd gotten anywhere with it.  Kaps' issue, and what has been hurting his organization, is that they need writers that can help them get international funding.  Obviously this is something I could certainly help with and have been thinking about with new vigor over the last few days.  The issue though is that the deadline for proposals is October 6th, almost two weeks before I will even get to Sierra Leone.  This definitely puts me at a disadvantage.  However, all the same I have a lifetime of sports experience and some experience/thoughts on society in the developing world.  

I immediately thought of American Football as I have so much experience with it, but it's not the best thing to try there right now, and the NFL gives money for that just to promote the game.  Track and Field (Athletics).  That's what makes the most sense to me.  I would argue it is by far the continent of Africa's most successful sporting endeavor.  Yes, football (soccer) is a huge success with players all over Europe, but from the 800m up, the track is dominated by African athletes.  Inherently this is a good sell to donors, and its cheap, it costs nothing to run.  Granted many people think you need shoes, but there is a huge push for barefoot running right now - as my interest in the Vibrams would attest to.  This is in fact how most of the current African runners start, barefoot.  It is also a sport for people of all shapes and genders - women and men, fast or strong.  I feel confident that a track program could address every one of the bullet points listed above.  

But is it possible there?  What exists already? And is there the "people power" there right now to make it happen? Without being on the ground I can do very little as I have no idea exactly too what extent athletics is already established.  I have looked at the website for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and found some athletes that are currently representing Sierra Leone, but not much, less than one hundred since 1999. 

Still though something exists, the extent of which would certainly need to be researched.  I in fact feel a bit naive writing about something that may already have its foothold.  But this is in fact a difficult situation as the deadline makes any push for this premature.  But, even if at the risk of looking foolish, nothing matters if something could be put together and come of it, and with only three olympic representative from Sierra Leone in Beijing in 2008 and the levels of poverty found in the country, more can be done.  

But there are key concerns that must be asked of Child Help.  They do a great deal of work in Makeni, the fifth largest city in Sierra Leone at 105,000 people.  How far have athletics penetrated into this region and outside of Freetown?  What types of facilities exist today?  Are there any trainers or clubs?  for kids?  If so, are there costs associated with them?  What about building capabilities there, is Child Help in a position to get things like this built there?  10% of the project costs must go to design and engineering, what abilities exist there for this?  Can you get all-weather track materials there or would it need to be cinder?  Cinder would prove very difficult to run on in the rainy season, but an all-weather track would be expensive.  According to the fund, any land built upon would have to already be owned, does the city have anything of the sort?  If not, is there any private donor that would be willing to gift land?

Ultimately, it is incredibly ambitious to think such a plan could be put together in the next month and a half with such little understanding of all things involved (at least on my part).  I would feel much more capable if I was either there or had already been.  All of this information must be obtained via email and at face value.  But hey, what in life is easy?  And why not take a shot?

No comments:

Post a Comment