Let Now Be Hopeful

By Nicholas Bruce

These can be hopeful times. 
Consider an eleven-year-old member of his local football club in a part of Cape Town, South Africa. A nationwide lockdown took effect and he could not go to the field to train or school to learn. Neither could his two siblings. They could not go beyond their driveway. In their backyard garden, they resorted to kicking a ball against the fence with their neighbor friends on the other side. Mimicking the action made it seem like a passing drill as part of their regular training. This eleven-year-old was also a manager. Okay, it’s a fantasy football team, but he did his homework. He’d been doing well, listening to the football podcasts to gain insight on players, stats and tips. He was earning extra bonus points each week against his fierce rival – a fantasy team managed by his mother. The friendly rivalry is on hold until Premier League recommences.

So why write that these are hopeful times? 
During all of this, the boy’s club team comprised      of  players of various ages and across the economic  and racial spectrum began to do something.  Instead of warming up during regular training      times, the players were packaging food bags for  the needy members of the community. Instead of  confirming travel for away friendly matches,  coaches were mapping out a delivery route to  reach people’s homes. Instead of coordination  drills and training, players were – correction, are –  traversing steep hills of the townships and pacing  several stairwells of apartment flats. Sport has  proved to be less-than-essential; community is  not. And never is.

In the U.S. capital of Washington DC, a brother-sister small business team realized their products sold at farmer’s markets will take a hit. Markets were closed or limited; lockdown would keep many away. They contacted their local farming community who sold their produce in the markets and also were unable to reach their regular customer base. Before long, they reinvented themselves as a grocery delivery service. The brother-sister team don’t just push their own product. They offer what the farms have harvested and what the people want, linking bountiful supply with overwhelming demand.

It’s a similar story for a young operations manager and his business partner in the western U.S. who were forced to lay off 90 percent of their workforce. Sale orders for their customized cargo bicycles were going to come to a standstill. When an open-source model of a face shield surfaced online, the business partners called hospitals about their needs and sourced the three simple materials from their regular vendors. Within weeks, they had masterminded their bicycle factory into a hygienic workplace for 80 people. They brought on people who had recently lost their jobs or were looking to work. They reached out to other small businesses in their community – a brewery and breakfast café — who had laid off their workers and soon they too were re-calling their staff. The effort now includes four companies, over 100 people, fulfilling orders for well over one million face shields to be shipped to hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide.

These are all real people, my friends, my family. I’ve deliberately written them as eleven-year-old boy, brother-sister, business partners because these stories are in every community around the world in one form or another. They are sport teams or small business and they all speak to the enormous value of community.

The truth is that the world is largely working toward a single challenge. When has that ever been the case? Conflict has opposing sides. Famine or refugee strife can be regional, go unnoticed or turn political. These current events are global and for that, everyone is impacted, everyone is affected. Everyone has the chance to do something.

  
Here’s one more: In a far-off corner of Peru, on the highest of mountain roads where the pavement ends and the paths are traveled as much by the hooves of llamas as the treads of people’s yanqui sandals, way up there lies Cuncani. This community is also impacted. If it is not a positive covid case, it will be affected by the global lockdown and the ripple effect of a slow-motion economy.

The community members are doing their part. The school director is working with his professor colleagues to send school work to the 50 students to continue their education from home. The students are so committed, they’ve asked the director for more assignments. When travel is permitted once again, NC aims to pioneer a project focused on education through play. The project was featured in an article for sportanddev.org on the International Day of Sport and Development.

Let us not forget that these days, weeks, months can be seen as hopeful times.

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Nicholas Bruce is a member of our Advisory Board. He is a journalist who has been involved in sports and development for almost 20 years, two of which he spent in Yungay, Peru. He currently lives in Berlin.

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