COVID-19 measures have had a significant impact on our coaches and their communities. Most coaches were not able to attend classes. All training sessions, camps and tournaments were cancelled. Therefore Hockey Dreams launched Community Projects: an alternative opportunity for coaches for learning and for contributing to their communities. Projects devoted to giving back and sparking long term impact. We are headed to Malawi, to hear about the Community Project in Blantyre.
Coaches reviewed different needs in the communities where they live and give training, and considered shortage of food the most dominant challenge. “Malawi is one of the poorest countries and most people are left by themselves. There are few organisations that help with matters such as the shortage of food, but on a very low scale. The World Food Programme provides porridge in schools, during school hours only. When schools closed due to COVID-19, children were in dire need of help.”
The Malawian Hockey Dreams Coaches saw an opportunity, and came up with an idea to fight malnutrition and enable the community to have a new source of income. “One of the communities has land that can be used to farm – to work the land and to grow crops. This is why we came up with supporting the community through seeds and fertiliser to cultivate maize, which is Malawi’s staple food.”
Besides the direct benefits of the harvest, the project aims for longer impact: “We aim to add to capacity building (see insert). To give community members the capacity to work for themselves. With a provision of seeds and fertiliser we are assured of a bumper harvest. Lives can change and other communities can copy this way of working. A possible outcome in the long run is self-reliance in terms of food. And young people may leave the streets (in terms of beggars); this project may help eradicate poverty.”
Hockey Dreams coaches provided not only maize seeds and fertilisers, but also facilitated farming expertise; a field assistant from the Ministry of Agriculture was invited to share his knowledge of farming with the community members.
Capacity building United Nations defines capacity building as “the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world. An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes.”
Cultivation and harvest
The field assistant visited the families and lands periodically and provided advice during the stages towards and during cultivating: land preparation, planting, fertiliser application, weeding, banding, and the actual harvesting. Hockey Dreams coaches made notes and gathered as much knowledge as possible so that in the absence of the field assistant they could support the community members with information.
“The seeds were sown in November 2020, and the plants harvested in May 2021. The families’ harvested maize may even be enough until the end of the dry season. Chunks of the maize can then be sold, and income used for other sorts of food to supplement their diet besides maize – like fish or meat – and to buy clothing.”
Reach of the project
In the growing season of this Community Project in Malawi, six families were directly reached: a total of 11 adults and 25 children. In the harvest season the scope increased to 150 people. “The Community Project reached extended families too: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren – all benefited from the harvest. The families have sufficient maize to share with other family members. They can now repeat their farming and techniques for many years to come.”
Evaluation and reflection
Blantyre – Malawi, 2022. The harvest was done in May 2021, and now, months later, we are most curious whether the expected outcomes were met. Unfortunately things were not as bright as hoped, as reported by Coaches Grace and Geoffrey. “The harvest did not last until the end of the dry season. Firstly, the dry season was long and two months longer than expected. The rainy season normally starts in October, but now the rain did not show until January 2022. Secondly, the country is going through a big economic crisis, which increases the prices of goods and commodities. These developments affected the families in a way that they had to sell more of their harvest than they had expected, only to make ends meet.”
“I learnt a new skill as I learnt about project management. I made new friends and learnt about friendship. I learnt about how people live their lives in different areas. About the challenges they face, and how they overcome them.”Grace, Hockey Dreams Coach Malawi
However trustworthy the project plan may have been, some forces in this world cannot be steered. Despite these setbacks, the coaches experienced what positive impact they can have in their communities. The families and other community members learnt and benefited loads from the Community Project.
“I have learnt so much by being part of this project. I developed communication skills, practised project management, and learnt about farming. I feel content that I was part and parcel of a project that changed the lives of others. This is an achievement for me.”Geoffrey, Hockey Dreams Coach Malawi
With creative thinking, and within the COVID-measures, the Malawian Hockey Dreams coaches came up with an idea to both fight malnutrition and enable the community to have a source of income. Along the way, the coaches have learnt helpful skills like project-planning and monitoring, distribution, guiding and assisting. They helped make the community and families become more self-reliant in terms of food and less dependent on well-wishers and begging. The COVID-circumstances brought the coaches the opportunity to work on their own development and at the same time contribute to their communities.
More Community Projects
Our coaches in Kampala, Uganda, helped their communities through making and selling soap. The coaches lifted this project from the ground and still, to this day, the skills and knowledge succeed in contributing to an additional income-generating activity, and a hygienic living environment.
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