Submitted by Noreen O’Gara and Larry Davis
A year ago we submitted this article to the Bedford Citizen and we were overwhelmed by generous donations of new and used equipment from individuals who played and coached soccer. Members of Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington and their Rabbi Susan Abramson of Bedford were especially focused on providing women’s equipment, clothing, and shoes. Luke’s former teammates and coaches shared soccer gear for men while friends and neighbors dropped off tiny shirts and shoes for the children of Bonkwae.
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Community leaders in Bonkwae decided it was best to sell these donated items in order to raise funds for a tournament and culminating gala. Everything was priced well below the going rates found in the local markets and the Bonkwae women were given first dibs on the gear. The Bonkwae men went shopping next and as the stock dwindled folks from other villages were invited to make purchases.
The Bonkwae Ladies Team (ages 12 to 28) began their soccer training in earnest. Their practice sessions always incorporated 30 minutes of HIV/AIDS education focusing on prevention and stigma reduction.
The tournament and gala provided another opportunity to promote health education. Funds from the soccer sale went to support the work of three nurses from a nearby hospital who came to Bonkwae on tournament day to speak about HIV/AIDS prevention. They administered HIV tests to anyone who was interested. A total of 49 people were tested and 4 discovered they were positive. These folks were given further education about treatment options and directed to a local HIV/AIDS clinic.
The hometown teams had a successful tournament: the U12s played a great match and the Bonkwae Men’s Team B won their division. And who were the champions of the women’s inaugural soccer tourney? The Bonkwae Ladies Team – with help from their supporters in Bedford and Burlington.