When basketball means hope, Sergio Mazza narrates his adventure as a volunteer in Kenya at needmoresport.com
These images come from Lodunkokwe, Kenya, where 5 years ago started Sergio Mazza’s adventure with Samburu Smile, a charity project which involves children. This is the proof of how basketball is an universal language, how it can unite people and give them hope and opportunities. There’s no need for words to describe them, just look at those girls playing in a clay court field with no boundaries and look at their smiles…
Sergio Mazza granted us an interview about his amazing experience.
Let’s start with a little presentation, tell us something about you and your life…
I’m Sergio Mazza, Italian from Salerno, 41 years old with a deep love for sports! I was a professional basketball player in my country for many years, and at the same time a coach for young players. I also teach gym in a Primary school, and I have a master in physical training. Sport takes most part of my life, but I also love pets, nature, travel and riding my motorbike. My dream is to come in Kenya from Italy riding it!
What did exactly push you to undertake this experience in Kenya?
I really wasn’t expecting to be so involved in this adventure until 2011. I answered to a friend of mine’s request, and I accepted to come in Kenya for a short period of 3 weeks, in a small Samburu village called Lodunkokwe. It was love at first sight with that place, but mostly with the people living there, the Samburu Tribe.
What was your first impact with Africa, what did you face and what about your feelings in that moment?
Like lots of us, I was expecting something different, when we usually think at African countries we have a vision given by media of poor and sad people, struggling every day to survive… I found a different situation, made by people who are not rich in the pocket, but in the hearth. Children grow happy, free, with lots of space, and they have amazing smiles. Of course sometimes they are hungry, they eat basically corn, beans and ugali, and when they are lucky rice, sometimes meat (they have lots of goats, but they don’t use for food, because is their only richness)
I gave them the chance to know basketball, and they loved it… So step by step Samburu Smile was born.
What do you think basketball can give to these children?
Basketball for them is an opportunity to play differently, to play together with rules and ability, learning every day new skills. I’m really proud of them because they are very fast to learn, more than European kids, and they are very disciplined. Sometimes their limit is that they don’t believe enough in themselves, in their capacity, and they are too scared to make mistakes. An African kid can’t do mistake, because when it happen usually will be punished, and I’m trying to work on this different mentality… Giving them scholarship through donations to Samburu Smile, basketball is also an opportunity to go on with their study after Primary school. Most of them can’t afford to pay fees for high school, but I’m doing my best to help them.
What about the reaction of children and their communities in general?
Children love basketball, and they love me. At the beginning they are scared from this tall white man, they call me Mzungu which means ‘white man’ in Kiswahili, but after a while they understand that I’m on their side, so they enjoy playing and spending time with me. They also took me in the bush, looking for elephants. The relationship with the community is fine, they understood that I respect a lot their culture, and they understood that my purpose is to help them and not to change them.
Finally, tell us what did you learn from these years as a volunteer and why should anyone try this experience…
In last 5 years I gave them part of my time: I spend all my “holiday” and part of my money in Kenya, I gave them my knowledge about basketball, but I’ve learnt a lot about life… In Europe sometimes we forgot the value of life, how nice is to stop your journey for a while talking or greeting people that is on your route… I’ve learned to respect more each other, I’ve learned to enjoy of small things, and I have found again my smile which was lost from many years… I also improved my English, now is not perfect, but at least I’m able to communicate with them, and next step is to learn some Kiswahili, or Samburu. I invite you all to join the page of my project on Facebook, the name is Samburu Smile.
I promise you to post something in English if you will like it. However pictures and children’s smiles talk in each language and you don’t need of any translation to appreciate them.
Finally I think that everybody, once in their life, should go for a short period in those places to enjoy a different experience and to understand how life is amazing and how much we can learn from different cultures!
Thanks for this opportunity and don’t forget SAMBURU SMILE!
FB ‘Samburu Smile’ page (info about donations): https://www.facebook.com/samburu.smile.kenya