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The Benga Hammers

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Exchange Volunteer Mr. Mostafa Essalai

After I knew that I had been accepted to be a CorpsAfrica Volunteer most of my family, close friends, and people around me gave me some advice on how to integrate safely into Malawi. One of these great pieces of advice came from a 42-year-old friend of mine a person which I have much respect for. He said, “If you want to live a smooth life and have a successful service, you should look for the common interests that you share with your community members.” Honestly, his advice was very helpful to me concerning my integration into my village, and thanks to this advice I now have many friends in my community.

In the first three weeks of my life in the village, I heard many people in the market talking about a soccer team that won the district league last year by taking the award from 16 teams in the district. Hearing this made me think about my friend’s advice. I asked myself, “If I am coming from a community who has soccer in its blood, why wouldn’t I join this team for training and to gain new friends.” However, it wasn’t that simple.

A long time before I started playing with the Benga Hammers Team, it was known as Alinafe Team. This was because of the Alinafe Community Hospital based in the community, and that most of the team players were working as staff at the hospital. One of the faithful sponsors at that time was Mr. Devline, a person who truly loves soccer. He encouraged the team financially and spiritually. Also, thanks to him the team had a chance to play outside of Malawi in Mozambique. Mr Devline assisted them to have jerseys, soccer boots, tracksuits, and balls. But suddenly, the candle of the team switched off so fast, when some committed team members and coaches stole most of the team materials and money. This issue immediately influenced Mr. Devline to stop supporting the team and led the team to a huge crisis; stopping playing soccer.

After a long time of team crisis, Alex, the captain and the goal keeper of the old team, called some players to sit down and talk about the team’s destiny. When they sat down they decided to bring the old team back together, but this time by supporting themselves. They did not plan to ask anyone for outside funds because they believed that they were playing soccer not for support, but because they like it. When I reached the village, I found this very excited team under the leadership of Mr. Alex, but with poor resources. After I joined them I tried to understand and explain to them that no one can help us if we didn’t help ourselves. Using what I had learned at Pre-Service Training, I talked with them about Asset Based Community Development. First, we tried to check where the team had errors and how we could handle these issues. After lots of discussion, we have decided to build a fence around our football pitch because the team can then gain more money to manage the team if they host more organized, friendly games.

A month later, I was more famous than I was ever expecting. When other villages started to know that the Benga Hammers had an azungu (foreign) player, most of them started asking my team to play theirs just to make sure the news was true. It has been a fun journey indeed!

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