Nora Dooley CAC on Field Coach and Communication Strategist writes about her experience in Rwanda for Play For Hope: Rwanda20 program.
Four incredible weeks in Rwanda working with Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) were capped off in the capital city of Le Pays des Mille Collines. The finale of the program, Play for Hope: Rwanda20, took place at Dream Team Football Academy with coaches from teams and organizations around Kigali.
All four of our trainings in Rwanda were centered on introducing the various groups of participants to our methods of using football as a tool for education and social impact. But as we do in all of the countries and communities where we work, we had to ensure that the curricula for each program were suited to the needs of the community and our partners. And in the case of Rwanda, this meant connecting our games to the country’s history and the ongoing reconciliation process.
As we mentioned in our first blog about our programs in Rwanda, the people of this country have a hunger. And it is not the type of hunger we encounter in many other African countries where we work, which is often a hunger for aid and a dependency on western influence. In Rwanda, it is a hunger, a yearning, for development, for progress that comes from within. Twenty years ago, the West failed this country, and Rwanda is not about to let that happen again. They – the government and the people together – are taking steps to build local capacity, to develop local resources and create an identity for Rwandans separate from outside influence. And it is working.
Our experiences traveling the country with FHPU directors, working with over 300 coaches and teachers from all over the small nation, allowed us a unique lens into the field of development that is absolutely sweeping over the thousand hills. As part of our program we played our Peace Day games with each group and had a special focus on the topics of peace and reconciliation during our final week in Kigali. When we played Peace Day – What to Do When Faced With a Problem, some incredible discussions came from conflicts that arose during the game. At one point (as always) somebody made a mistake and another team accused him of cheating. Our coach stopped the game and asked, what’s the problem? It was clearly a misunderstanding of the rules which was a great teachable moment because it showed us how quickly a situation can escalate to conflict without stopping to understand the cause of the problem in the first place. We talked through the issue and the participants involved were laughing and hugging by the end. This event led right into a fruitful discussion about the causes of the genocide, how to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and how to solve our problems peacefully. Another noteworthy aspect of Rwandan society today is that many of the perpetrators of the genocide are living amongst the people, working, living, and eating with families whose relatives they murdered. As outsiders we cannot pretend to understand the complexity of that relationship, but we can respect the strength and resilience, and work with these coaches to further their peace-building efforts. And with us that means a football is in play.
We also learned during this time that the widespread understanding of what went wrong in 1994 points to corrupt internal leadership as well as the failings of the West – specifically the influence before and the absence during the genocide. Having knowledge of these factors we were able to provoke situations in games that led to discussions about these important issues. It is known throughout that CAC lives by the words – solve your problem. This simple statement is so much more than three words suggest, and this is especially true in Rwanda. “Solve your problem” means don’t wait for me – your coach/teacher/parent/adult – to solve it for you because you – the player/team – can solve it yourself(ves). Rwanda has already adopted this notion largely because of what happened in 1994, when they looked to the countries who were supposed to help, and those countries turned their backs. Never again. Rwanda will now solve their problem the Rwandan way, and they are doing it every day.
We are proud to be even a small part of this exciting movement in this beautiful country working with the wonderful FHPU, and we can’t wait to see what the newly trained social impact coaches do next. The Peace Day games discussed in this article are part of a bigger initiative for the International Day of Peace on September 21st – look out to see what happens in Rwanda next month!