– all for the better
In August this year I had the chance and privilege to spend 12 days in South Africa. I had been invited by Akhona Makalima, first FIFA accredited woman referee in her country, to come and help her in her journey towards the empowerment of girls and women through sport.
This was a direct implication of the ADVANCE workshop I offered to some GSPM (Global Sports Mentoring Program) alumni in Lyon as part of the #TeamUp meeting alongside the FIFA WWC 2019 (read more about it here). In fact the trip was partly funded by my ADVANCE grant I received from the Center for Sport, Peace and Society of the University of Tenessee. But it turned out to be something much bigger than a support visit from BeInnovActiv’. Indeed, I soon figured out that I would actually be part of a GSMP Follow-On Trip.
A month after my return, I still find it hard to process this life changing experience. But I will try to share here few feedback, stories and reflections I had.
What you gain from getting out of your comfort zone is just invaluable
This was my first time on the African continent. And to be honest, I had some double thought before saying yes to Akhona when she asked me to come visit her. Yes, I admit it. I was unsure whether I felt ok stepping into something that new. I was also challenged by the potential insecurity I could felt there or the medical check-up I would need to go through. It turned out it was mainly my brain running wild.
I did not know what to expect but I certainly know this would be a roller coaster of emotions, delivering workshops and providing support in a context totally unknown to me. I was in doubt I would be able to cope with all the emotions and stress of not being in control.
AND YET I DID IT and somehow this was already an achievement. But the most important is what I gained from it.
I had the honour and privilege to get to know even more Dr Sarah while walking and working along her path as a peer. Just writing it – I cannot say it loud afraid that it would break it- is still barely acceptable from me as I do admire her and her work.
I also got to know two inspiring women, Dr Jill and Dr Nancy. From them I got new perspectives on my own work and priceless mentoring on the go. They somehow helped me in a healing/growing process while pointing out some of my strengths and qualities. Allowing me to see and accept that these qualities I tend to picture as normal human traits are not. And that I should build further on them.
How it feels to take part to something much bigger
First of all, this Follow-on visit was a unique opportunity to meet up with two brothers from the GSMP Sport4Community. Building bridges between the two programmes -Empower Women on one side and Sport4Community on the other side- has been identified end of June by the #TeamUP participants as one way to make it even more impactful. I did not anticipate this would happen just a month and a half later. The bond may take 1 minute instead of 10 seconds to be created but still the experience is priceless.
We are a pack and we are fighting the fight, why not doing it together? I feel lucky to have met with Patrick and Sip as part of this Follow-on visit. They are driven by the same passion of bringing better life opportunities to those they can help through sport. Seeing them in action was a blessing and unique learning opportunity.
In addition, I cannot help but to mention it was a privilege to be able to be an ambassador for the GSMP. Obviously this come along with some pressure and the responsibility to ensure our actions and proposals would match the quality of the programme.
Not only were we representing the GSMP family to the South Africans we met; and we met many (from the founder of the African Leadership Academy to community leaders and trailblaizers in the field of sport and education) and had outstanding discussions and activities. This alone was an eye opener and a personal and professional growth opportunities.
But we were also representing the GSMP family to the high level invitees that were Jill and Nancy. This proved to be even more important as this was the first time two participants outside of the GSMP mentors ring were taking part to a Follow-on visit. Even if these two have known and followed the GSMP for many years, it was incredible to be both a witness and an actor of their discovery of its full potential. My wish is for them to remember this experience –a first in action GSMP encounter- for the years to come and to feel like they are part of this big family. Because there is no doubt they are!
Last but not least, it was immensely rewarding and enriching to have deep down discussions and brainstorming on the future of the GSMP. The potential of the global sister- and brotherhood is still probably largely untapped. Together we can achieve much more.
A humble and yet heart breaking reminder that we human are all the same
Sharing aspiration for a better life for the new generation yet tending to focus on material aspects and sometimes loosing perspectives on what matters most. A life lesson that with will and grit you can overcome barriers that are even hard to fully think of here in our secured quality life in occident.
Whatever the language, the eye and smile cannot lie. In getting fully engaged with people you did not know a second ago, you learn so much about them and yourself. You simply connect in more meaningful way. That’s because you have to be there 100% and be fully engaged. The second you disengaged – something so easy in our modern life society- you lose the richness of human connection.
A reminder to be grateful for whatever life bring you AND be an actor of the change you want to be
It is one things to have knowledge of the conditions of leaving of some people through the media exposure or discussion with various people who have been through it.
It is something deeply different to actually SEE it. I cannot go to the extent of writing “experiencing it” for I know we were in very privileged conditions during our trip. Yet feeling with you whole body what it means to live there, meeting people in their habitat, this is a transformative humble experience.
I feel that it’s my duty and yet I received it as a gift to enjoy every little moment.
I also got to realize that giving is and should not be an option. What I meant here by giving is the “charity” way of doing “good”. I come to realize that charity is and had not helped them at all. Unless you are willing to give your time and share knowledge, spend quality time with them, your money will not help the people in South Africa and elsewhere, not in a mid or long term. It is probably only helping you and your ego and you might do more harm than good. Yes, I have met people who are missing the very basics such as access to drinkable water and safe space to play. And for sure some money and well developed programme could help bridge it out. Yet, would not it be better to empower these communities, help them identify their richness and work them out of poverty? It was an enactment of the well known proverb “If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.”
TO CONCLUDE/KEY MESSAGES OR PERSPECTIVES
Tremendous personal impact
- South Africa is a country so full of possibilities, with talented people and gorgeous natural resources and landscape. I simply fall in love with it. I am in awe with the nature and landscape. I fell for the vibes of the earth there in South Africa. On few occasion during the trip, I heard and felt some kind of ancestral calling going back to deep roots.
- I had been struggling though with the impact of colonialism and charity. It was heart breaking to hear from few community leaders and people we spoke to that the solutions to cope with the country’s problems should come from external investors. As if no hope or great things could be built from inside. It was also terribly disarming when we arrived to a remote community and were celebrated by all girls and boys and their parents as the hope bringers. I could not help but think “who I am to meet their expectations?”.
- Being exposed to latent racism and having experiencing it has also taught me how I should be even more responsible and intentional in fighting it here and everywhere. I actually laugh at the situation -having being kept waiting for my coffee for almost 30 minutes and to teh iont that I coiuld have missed my flight at aiport cofeeshop while all other coloured people got theirs. I laugh because it is in a way hilarious and that was better to took it that way. And yet I also know it is privilege to laugh at it. And an ability I would not have if I must endure this kind of discrimination everyday and probably many time a day. I am also very much aware that this was “nothing” and that it stoke me because it was the first time I was experiencing it myself.
- A reminder and an eye opener that only together we can reach out something positive. That we need to know our past but overcome it and be bold and smart to build up a new future.
Untapped professional impact
- An invitation to let go and trust my instinct.
- I came to realized what I have been achieving in a short period of time and got a chance to somehow celebrate it. These achievements include 1. developing a GSMP adapted programme for Europe and not only securing funds for its pilot but running it full stream; 2. Developing and testing an approach to help people identify and tell the stories of the sift and transversal skills acquired through sport; 3. Providing specialized support (whether on funding opportunities, communication strategy, strategic development or admin and project management) to 8 different sport oriented programmes and projects in Europe and beyond… All this in 18 months.
- It also opened up new perspectives for some kind of stronger and more intentional BeInnovActiv’ support to the GSMP communites.