Looking At The Other Africa
So far this trip has been amazing. Staying in a nice, gated hotel with free and fairly fast Internet access, eating lunch with the U.S. team's families at a five-star resort, walking around Melrose Arch passing shops like Gucci and Bobbi Brown. I felt privileged, but also not at all like I am in Africa.
Everyone keeps saying this isn't Africa, it's Europe. And I feel like there is some truth to that. But driving to the Nike facility -- and getting lost -- our group passed by what I have to imagine is "the real Africa."
When you drive through Africa you see large stretches of land, probably why soccer is so prevalent, because there are these wide expanses of field where kids can play. Surrounding the fields are tightly-packed communities of houses.
The neighborhood we drove through was lined with houses almost inside one another they were so close. All the buildings were made of cement with wiring hanging from one end of the tiny yard to the other in order to catch electricity. Every house is one-story, and the ones that aren't can only be accessed through a gate.
There is litter everywhere -- plastic bags, dented soda cans, dirty diapers, empty-food containers -- everything right in the middle of a sign reading, "No Dumping."
Businesses scatter the neighborhood with little huts, almost like the ones where you would buy a hot dog at a Little League game, offering haircuts and public phone booths, buying mobile minutes and fixing fridges. But the most galling were the signs for surgery. Right smack in the middle of the neighborhood is a hand-painted sign reading in large letters," SURGERY," and underneath listed, "circumcisions, family planning," etc. There was another sign reading, "Medical Surgery Now Open in Field."
And yet we leave the neighborhood to get back on the road to the facility, and I look over at the open expanse of grass opposite the neighborhood. Despite the crumpled newspapers and broken bottles, there stands a single goal, standing as a shining light among the wreckage.
I wondered to myself as we sit in these meetings, what does social responsibility really mean? What are these companies' responsibilities to these countries? Why is sport always the avenue for social change? For education? For teaching youth to be better people?
I think I found my reason.
Posted June 16, 2010