Kalusha Foundation in Dutch Newspaper

February 21, 2008

By Ingmar Vriesema
Lusaka. Ask Jane Kalilombe (16) from Lusaka, Zambia, to name her favourite football player, and she mumbles something like Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, the Brazilian stars. Ask about her own team, and she shrugs her shoulders. But ask her about her knowledge on HIV/AIDS: she starts talking in a different way. “I am a little girl. I don’t have to have sex with anybody. AIDS is bad, and once you get it, you won’t cure. Then you die.”

Jane plays football in one of the 230 boys and girls teams which are part of the Kalusha Foundation. This Foundation exists since 2003 and was founded by famous former Zambian player Kalusha Bwalya (44). Kalusha, who played for PSV in Holland from 1988 until 1994, and is known as King Kalu in Zambia, wants to develop and help the Zambian football using his Foundation. But the most important thing is: football should be the aim to help developing the youth’s future in his country.

What does this mean? In Zambia things like rape, forced prostitution, early pregnancies and HIV/AIDS are well known, unfortunately. More than 50% of the women get pregnant and have a baby before they are 20 years old, while worldwide this number is ‘only’ 25%. More than fifty thousand Zambian boys en girls work in prostitution. And 130 thousand children from 0 to 4 years old are HIV- infected. Kalusha says: “It is the combination of football and education that is so important. You cannot reach these children simply by telling them some facts about these threats. It is football that works: it unites the children. This is the only way education will work.”

The work of the Kalusha Foundation has suddenly become ‘important’, now that Minister of Development Koenders and State Secretary of Sports (VWS) Bussemaker have emphasised the social role of sports. Sports can help achieving development goals, so is said by these policy makers. They will put sixteen million euro’s into sport projects in developing countries in the next three years (2011).

Jane is playing on a sandy field. The mix of sports and education is present: first Jane and her team mates train – bare footed and wearing old Ajax and Barcelona jerseys- and then it is time for a little game. AIDS is the central theme here. Four girls pretend to be the virus. They invite the rest of the girls to play with them saying “AIDS doesn’t kill, we are positive”. The other girls start running away. They have to try not to get ‘infected’ while running. “Otherwise the virus will spread”, says one of the girls.

Every Tuesday Janes team, the K-Stars Queens, stays after training to get life skills education. What to do when a man wants to rape you? Why is teen pregnancy a bad thing? What about one-night stands? Sophie Phiri (16) sounds just like her team mate Jane when she talks about sex and pregnancy. When she was thirteen years old, she had a nineteen year old boy friend. “He wanted to have sex, but I was not ready for it”. She discussed this with her aunt, Enala Phiri, who is also coach of the girls team. She advised her to quit seeing this boy. “Now I do not have sex at all.”

Boys also get life skills education. Defender Richard Banda (16) plays every Saturday with his team JCC, and on Friday afternoon he learns how to use a condom during sex. Banda: “The Foundation teaches us playing football, but also things about puberty. That’s a good thing.”

According to Kalusha life skills education is very important, because children do not get the proper education at home. “Simply because parents are away from home, to work or to find work.” Or they died of AIDS or another disease: in Zambia 710 thousand AIDS orphans have to survive. Kalusha: “Children are often raised by their aunt or grandmother. But that doesn’t mean they learn everything.”

The Kalusha Foundation works together with international partners, like the KNVB (Royal Netherlands Football Association) Academy, were coaches and referees get educated in Holland (and internationally. The Academy educates and trains Zambian coaches which are part of the Foundations network. After this course it is time educate many volunteers in Zambia. This way Enala Phiri – coach of Jane and Sophia- got a fully paid education by the KNVB. She was trained by a Dutch coach. The KNVB also uses other foreign organisations to support the Foundation. Most of the movement games as mentioned before were used from the Kenyan organisation MYSA and the international network Kicking Aids Out.

The Foundation aims to increase the level of education, according to the Volunteers Guide 2007, the guide for over hundred volunteers of the Kalusha Foundation. “We reach so many children through football, that we are short on coaches and teachers.”

Sophia Phiri is heading the right way forward. She plays in the national team of Zambia under seventeen. And she went back to school, after missing last year because she could not afford it. She wants to finish her school to become an accountant. “That way I can take care of my family”. What about football? “You should not focus on one thing. When something goes wrong, you end up having nothing.”

Read more about the Foundation on www.kalushafoundation.org

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