Getting My Feet Under the Table at Kick4Life FC

“Kick4Life are providing the pathway to follow. For example, if they tell me to not drink the beer and then I go away and am drinking the beer and someone ask me ‘why are you drinking the beer?’ and I say sorry, who is in the wrong? This is the sick of Lesotho”. 

It was towards the end of a leisurely Friday afternoon and night yesterday that Kick4Life FC’s groundskeeper, maintenance man and No.7 restaurant vegetable gardener ‘Rasta’ stood with me outside ‘Good Times’, explaining why Kick4Life FC is indeed providing a valuable opportunity for young people in this country. This conversation resulted from another member of the group questioning whether all the activities in operation at the charity and social enterprise might distract from the critical behavioural change messages such as those surrounding HIV. Shouldn’t the fact that HIV exists in one in every four Basotho (and 40% of 25-29 year olds; my age group) be drilled in to all those becoming involved with Kick4Life FC’s work? Is there not a risk that, for example, in the pursuit of sustained premiership status the men’s football team might forget its founding purpose as one of a number of active entities which aim to promote the charity’s work, and further generate energy, funds and role models to keep it fuelled? 

This late-night discussion arrived a few days after I came across a very clear and well executed letter announcing the launch and focus of Kick4Life FC. The co-founder’s letter briefs the charity’s staff on how Kick4Life’s transition and repositioning towards Football Club status, and it’s associated Academy, seeks to push the boundaries of the football industry and the charity and Sport for Development sectors. It reiterates that the overall aim remains the same; 

A long-term, holistic and high impact approach designed to support participants towards long-term education, training and employment, and the chance to achieve a sustainable livelihood.

The Kick4Life Football Club Model

HIV/AIDS and health education, prevention and support remains very much a core focus of Kick4Life FC. However, as committed convert Rasta continued to elaborate, it is neither enough nor that constructive to focus on telling people how to act or think. Kick4Life FC’s pathways provide opportunity for change in a number of positive ways and areas in people’s lives. 

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” 
  Benjamin Franklin (quote posted on I.T Classroom wall)

It’s been just under two weeks since my last post and in that time I’ve come across a series of signs which suggest there is certainly substance to Rasta’s theory. However, in what is quite a difficult and complex environment, I also feel such suggested ‘ills’ of Lesotho seem overly/unfairly self-deprecating. Taking the right moral course is not what us ‘developed’ westerners can exactly claim full marks on; whether more personal matters of ‘laziness’, overly casual relationships and binge drinking, to corruption at all levels, uninspiring-at-best elitist male-dominated political establishments and human exploitation in all its forms. The direction of a societies’ moral compass isn’t inherently geographically fixed. 

On a lighter note, as we sat earlier in the evening in a pleasant ‘Lesotho Sun’ Hotel, Rasta brilliantly mistook my reference to losing the ‘four of spades’ through the garden decking in our back garden as a suggestion that four spades were identified as missing in this week’s stock check of the container he manages. This example completes the mix of humour, mistranslation, warmth, moral dilemmas, cultural frustrations and complexities, inspiration and challenges that are colouring this time as I now start to get my feet under the Kick4Life FC (K4LFC) table. 

My Desk in the Social Enterprise Office

My I.D. Photo!

A Heroes Return
The return back to Lesotho after the last post from Sugarman Cafe, Harrismith, included more South African wildlife, an escort from a South African armoured police vehicle headed for Lesotho and one very fortunate discounted night’s stay at a Ladybrand guesthouse courtesy of Catriona’s colleague. Having passed the Lesotho border with surprising ease, the westerners’ triumphant arrival back to our Maseru West house probably didn’t appear overly heroic to our Cameroonian housemate and K4LFC player Robert who never left and probably wondered why we did. 

Chris checking important emails at Sugarman Cafe, Harrismith
Packed up, on the move again
The Curious Harrismith
Zebra on our way back through a now heavily secured Golden Gate National Park
Our South African armoured police vehicle escort heading for the border
Ladybrand Suite
Apparently unfounded nerves at the border
Maseru West Home
The Honeymoon Suite

Back garden decking – Four of Spades’ final resting place

Finally starting work at Kick4Life FC on Thursday 4th September, I begun to understand what my role as Volunteer Social Enterprise Assistant might involve. My new boss Tess, the now Social Enterprise Manager (who previously built up No.7 restaurant with her scouse husband, head chef, environmental officer and Chris’ Friday night Lesotho Sun blackjack partner Wayne) showed me around the hotel, conference centre, literary centre, media centre, containers, tuck shop, HIV counselling rooms, library and more, my list of possible projects for the next 3 months quickly grew.

In the afternoon I joined Tess and the very nice ladies in the Social Enterprise team meeting, including ‘Auntie Lash’, and Lineo (with the L pronounced as a D) and Busisiwe (Busi) both graduates who have recently been promoted to their role having been volunteers and then receptionists. It wasn’t long before I was getting into team meeting mode not a million miles away from a few weeks ago in the PBA office. Despite all the pressures with the imminent hotel opening to coincide with the first All Stars Tour on 21st September, it was exciting to listen to and occasionally input into discussions and updates on the team’s activities.  

With Friday being a half day and spending much of that morning out of the office, it was still difficult to find my feet in the new base. I joined Lineo in the K4LFC pick up truck driven by K4LFC driver/maintenance man Stume. I felt slightly shy and awkward sitting in the passenger seat travelling through this new unfamiliar culture as we ran errands for the new hotel and conference centre. However our time in ‘Pioneer Mall’, a new cathedral for this crazy complex unequal modern world, helped break the ice. So did the sudden rush back to the office after Lineo received a phone call declaring an early office closing due to breaking news of an army street march. Apart from Kick4Life media centre manager Danny shouting at us to ‘get off the streets’ from his passing pick up, and two short distant rounds of gunfire and a flare later that night, it was Catriona’s lasagne that would eventually steal the show that day.  

For one interpretation of this confusing political crisis…

Football, Football, Football…

Naturally, living with Chris and volunteering with Kick4Life FC brings its fair share of football. Saturday finally presented my first experience of the men’s team in action. After cutting up nearly 300 tickets for Chris, I enjoyed watching the team push through a hard earned 1-0 victory against unbeaten (in two) Likila United which required use of a last minute fine-avoiding makeshift stretcher put together by Rasta and colleagues. 

Checking some pre-match emails…
Local lads
Checking some pre-match messages…

Coach Dona 

Our turn on the pitch came the next day with my first 5-a-side experience with Chris’ random mix of Basotho, South African, Egyptian, Jordanian, Portuguese, American and Scouse players. (Though no sign this time of the infamous Chinese ‘Messi’). The 25 degree heat (21 degrees hotter than when I stepped off the plane just 10 days earlier!) at noon kick off made for hard work though the after match ‘brai’ aided the recovery. 

Slowly acclimatising thanks to more games on Tuesday and Thursday night, we also joined the colourful crowds at the Setsoto Stadium to watch national team ‘Likeuna’ play Gabon in the African Nations Cup qualifier on Wednesday night. Unpredictably, the home team’s display was as impressive as the full moon gracing the game with Likeuna unlucky not to hold on to a 1-0 lead despite losing their keeper to a red card on 35 minutes. The ‘VIP’ Chris graced us with his presence in the commoners’ seats to avoid being pestered by other VIPs and watch Likuena see out a well deserved and entertaining 1-1 draw, complimented by lively dancing and singing fans.    

The long walk to the early bath after ridiculous handball
Chris tucking in to half time VIP treatment

Fans sing and dance in unity after Likuena go 1 up

My First Full Week
Getting used to the 45 minute walk in – beeping taxis, dodgy paving, hot mornings…

…my first full week was a good start for getting stuck into the ‘to do’ list and begin feeling part of the team. Sharing the office, ideas and Sesotho language lessons with Herbalife fanatic Busi has been great, as have the occasional visits from Lineo and Sesotho language tests from Auntie Lash at the main reception desk! As well as keeping up to speed on the planning for the imminent tour group arrival with Chris and Auntie Lash (an especially challenging time between Chris and Steve back in the UK with formulating Plans B, C, and D given the political and military uncertainty), in this first full week I have helped with the following: 

  • Co-ordinating painting of conference room
  • Meeting with a cycling tour company 
  • Drafting a potential social enterprise project proposal 
  • Helping design hotel leaflets
  • Planning an event monitoring and evaluation process
  • Completing a container stock check
  • Meeting with billboard advertisers
  • Undercover investigating with the social enterprise ladies of a popular local hotel competitor and its drink menu and service
Container managed by Rasta and Stume now with stock checked
 and apparently 4 missing spades! (Rasta’s vegetable garden to the left)

Chipping away at these tasks seems to involve quite a bit of walking around the centre, multitasking and liaising with various other workers and volunteers. As I pass Moses’ I.T. classes, the buzzing administration office, Pusha Love HIV curriculum deliverers, young school kids visiting the literature centre, streetkids using the Kick4Life 5-a-side pitch, trainees preparing No.7 for the lunchtime customers and business representatives touring the new conference centres, it is clear there’s a lot going on at Kick4Life FC. One of my favourite examples this week though was coming across our housemate Robert’s French speaking football training session with school children. 

No.7 trainees gearing up for lunch customers at the outdoor pagoda eating space

Kick4Life FC Midfield star Robert’s inspiring French speaking football training session
– How it Should Be.

As I sit in the house with Cat and Moses preparing our curry dinner and Chris splitting his time between watching today’s 4th live televised football game and polishing his shoes for tomorrow’s K4LFC match, I’m finding it easy to get used to these surroundings. I need to remind myself how lucky I am. Not least do I have my health, a solid upbringing and privileged background which allows me to swan through foreign cultures and with relative ease. With Kick4Life FC allowing me my own pathway to follow, I hopefully have 2.5 months more involvement in a positive organisation with some inspiring and warm people. As the tour group hopefully arrive this time next week, they will be able to join us to see for themselves this positive movement in action.

Kea leboha bo ‘me le bo ntate, sala hantle!  


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