Soccer, Mapping and Storytelling

Last fall, during my volunteer-school-build in rural Singida Tanzania, I met a school master who wanted to address the youths and vulnerable children in his community. Together, with a group of dedicated villagers, we formed Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Care (OVCC). Currently, OVCC organizes a soccer league where youths come together to play and learn useful skills to share with the vulnerable.


A quick sketch made by a villager in my mini-notebook, explaining to me how his household is run

This September, I return to Singida to participate first-hand in OVCC’s activities. Using “mapping” as a visual communications technique, we can collectively discuss the spaces, infrastructures and social networks that define the community, its needs, and potentials.

Mapping refers to plotting points and finding common terms of reference with which to analyze data. Mapping is, in the words of landscape architect James Corner, a “collective enabling enterprise”, a creative act that describes and constructs the space we live in, a project that reveals and realizes hidden potential
– Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, ElseWhere Mapping

Taking cues from the “strategy-game-play” drawings used by the youths during their soccer matches, a similar mapping methodology can investigate target areas that will benefit from grassroots ingenuity and innovation. Mapping can also be used as a method to document and analyze the success of these small-scale projects.

In my participation with OVCC activities, I return again and again to two incredible talks by two extraordinary women, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jacqueline Novogratz, as a guide. True dialogue that engages local expertise is fundamental.

As the mapping exercises unfold and stories from the community emerge, issues such as youth empowerment, aid vs. trade, the need for effective cross-cultural dialogue, etc, will be confronted and documented. Check back regularly for new posts and please join the discussion by sharing your comments, questions and expertise.

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