By Nathan Ekwu, 2016 team member
The A2S 2016 Summer Youth Empowerment camp has been going so well. As you may know, this is my second edition of being part of this great program. I got here on Thursday, and ever since, it has been a game changer for my trip to Nigeria, working with our foreign and local staffs. It has been a great experience and a great platform for growth. What has made my trip so special was being able to see my little girl, Imuetinyan. When we went to the After School Academy on Thursday, I saw the staff and every other kid, but she wasn’t there because she was back home cooking. But when she heard I was around, she left and came to say hi to me. I heard from her dad the next day that the food was burnt.
I found out on Thursday that she’s has sickle cell, but the bright side is that she has remained the same happy girl I met last year, and she still eats a lot so her appetite hasn’t changed that much. According to her parents, she’s doing well in school, and she’s growing into a beautiful young woman. Seeing her and seeing the smile on her face despite her struggles with health and economic factors has been a major factor for me to keep being a part of this program, working tirelessly to help those kids.
I can’t go into full details about my last three days, but today, Sunday, was amazing because we got to worship with the kids under the same roof, and the atmosphere was really good. After church service, we got to take pictures with the kids in their church attires, and what impressed me most was the kids kept saying thank you instead of asking for gifts. We left straight to the Empowerment Camp, and by the time we got there, there were a lot of kids playing ball and excited to have us. We went straight into stretches because today was Sunday Funday, and we tried as much as possible to create time for fun activities.
In empowerment camp, we had an exercise where the kids were solving puzzles to work on their team work and communication. Unfortunately the rain started falling so we had to move them into the indoor court, which was darker and dustier than outside. I was walking back with Dan, and we were talking about how to organize the kids and set up their puzzles one more time. But to our great surprise, when we walked in, every group was already together working again on solving their puzzles. Honestly speaking, I was overwhelmed because to me that was not a typical thing I expected, but it showed how much they engaged and love what we are doing. After that, we picked the group that won. Usually teams don’t appreciate when you don’t give them the victory but every team was supporting the one that won. After the puzzle game, we reiterated what we learned before. Then we went for a lunch break.
After the lunch break we had different contests, including the three-point for boys and girls of every stage and every age group. The most interesting part of this was the little kid, as tiny as anything you can imagine, might be one of the tiniest kids in the camp made the most shots of anyone in the camp. He was able to make the layup, the free throw and the triple, and everyone went crazy. After that we had the slam dunk contest and the three-point contest. After the contest, the coaches, foreign and local, had our traditional all-star game. Before the game, the local coaches threatened that they were going to beat us badly because they had been practicing. It was close at the beginning but as time passed we took over the game. We had Cam putting people on the skates; we had Dan dunking all over the place; we had Funmi, Uche, Coach Charles being aggressive on the offensive end. Coach Charles with two great hook shots like Kareem Abdul Jabar, which made all the campers go crazy. We had Ehis and all of the other players playing great defense and distributing the ball, and we came out with a great 49-29 victory. Everyone was happy, and congratulated each other. The kids said they admired the way we passed the ball and made the game look easier. But everyone kept laughing at me because I slid trying to make a dunk. Luckily I didn’t get hurt but it was the funniest part of the game, and I’m glad I was able to contribute.
After the all-star game, I led the question and answer session. I was really impressed with the kids. They had good examples and applied the knowledge we had taught them on entrepreneurship and self-awareness. It was a little noisy but I decided to call out this girl who had kept making eye contact and being attentive all through the question and answers. I gave her a t-shirt to prove to other people that you don’t have to answer the questions to win the prize, but you can win by doing the little things. That is what we try to teach at A2S… that doing the little things or the right thing can get you where you want to be and not just what everyone else thinks is the right thing.
In conclusion, I would say today has been really productive. I would say right from day one through today has really been productive. We have older kids showing the younger kids how things are done. We have younger kids challenging the older ones and showing them how to do the right thing. We have the coaches stepping up. We have the US staff having a great moment and getting the sunburns. But the most important part is that we are all having fun.
I’m glad we are having fun, especially our US team because it means a lot to me to sacrifice their time and leave their homes to come out in the hot sun and the dusty environment to come hang out with these little kids. Our presence this year has really been a positive platform for these kids to keep building upon. Last year it was just me and Andrew, and this year we have seven from the States, including Juliet and Jafar, who have come back to work camp. For those kids to see where they are now and the progress they have made I believe is one of the best lessons we can ever teach. From this part of the world, the hot, humid, wonderful Nigeria, we say thank you to our brothers, ours sponsors, those who supported us in prayers and financially. And I hope you had a Sunday Funday as well.