Day 5 -
Liberia has some crazy names for it's communities and towns, my favourite being Chocolate City. How sweet would it be to live in a place called Chocolate City? Seriously! Today, our final day in Liberia, we visited a community called Chicken Soup Factory. Not as awesome as Chocolate City, but still pretty dang cool.
I had a rough night with what the Liberians like to call "Running Stomach". I actually think I had a parasite or heat stroke because I woke up with an intense and uncontrollable bout of the shivers at about midnight. I was starting to panic when my stomach was cramping every 40 minutes - I kept thinking, "what if I am not well in the morning and we have to head out to the field?" Oh no!!
I couldn't eat breakfast. The site of food made me feel noxious and I didn't want to fuel the fire if you know what I'm sayin'. I decided to go up to my room to get a few extra minutes of rest and see if I could mentally prepare for a day of being uncomfortable. I was mad at myself for even being the slight bit concerned and negative about the situation because people here have to live with far worse conditions every single day, but for those of you who have had an upset stomach in a third world country, I'm sure you can understand my concern.
Anyway, enough about that, let's get on with the day!
We traveled about 45 minutes to Chicken Soup Factory and went directly to a play session. I decided to observe the activities rather than participate and it was brilliant to be on the outside looking in. This is what I saw: children randomly coming out of the corners of the field to join in, games organically unfolding, coaches engaging and wonderful flashes of hope that this community is well on it's way to change.
After finishing things off in Chicken Soup Factory and saying our goodbyes, we headed to our last site of the trip - Stephen Tolbert. (I was starting to feel a bit more alive and had made it through the day thus far unscathed…)
The sun was hot on our drive over to Stephen Tolbert and suddenly I started to realize that our adventure was coming close to an end. On one page, it felt like we had just arrived, but on another it felt as if we had been in Liberia for months.
The stands were full as we arrived at our final destination. This was another final kickball match, but in a different district. We were going to have some formal introductions and speeches (Kaillie and I being the keynote speakers!), a play day and then the match was going to get underway. Liberians like their loud speakers LOUD! Everyone's poor ear drums were close to blowing out as we addressed the crowd with our awesome 1 minute Keynote ;) We got to watch some coaches receive their certification as well which was super cool and then the play day began.
The play day was arranged by an organization called ROCH (Restoring Our Children's Hope). I found out later that ROCH was developed by Kaefalla - one of our guides on the first day. He decided to start ROCH when the RTP programs began to phase out of the communities he had worked in. He wanted to find a way to keep implementing the activities and values created by RTP. You see, Right To Play's mandate is to work in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Once the programs have been implemented and positive and sustainable change has been observed for a few years, Right To Play slowly phases out their involvement. They do this so that they can direct resources to new communities who are in greater need. ROCH has become the next step and is an amazing example of the Right To Play sustainability model in action. Not only are youth being empowered, but leaders are being encouraged as well to create initiatives and empower themselves.
The play session was packed (as you can tell from the photo on the left). I went up onto the bleachers, took a deep breath and tried to absorb the magic that was taking place right in front of my eyes. When I looked around I couldn't stop thinking, "Without Right To Play, none of this would be happening." None of the experiences that Kaillie, Jamie and I had this week would have happened if Right To Play did not exist. We saw a lot. We met a ton of people. We participated in a zillion play sessions. Right To Play is the driving force behind all of this and it's making an incredible impact. The programs are creating a positive space for the next generation to learn valuable skills through play. These spaces are joyful and all-inclusive where hope and potential glow.
As we departed this final visit and headed back to the hotel to grab a quick shower before our 40 hour flight home, I was really satisfied. I wanted to come here and be able to put an experience behind my stories and passion for Right To Play. I believe I did just that. It was a whirlwind, but I witnessed a very powerful movement this week. I am so honoured to be an ambassador.