POV: African Youngsters Thankful for Albany’s Coach Banda

A September Sports Illustrated article titled “Sports Saves the World” charted the progress of several organizations around the world helping combat poverty, AIDS, malaria and a host of other social issues through sports. Though not featured in the article, Albany’s Kalekeni Banda and his Guilderland-based Banda Bola Sports Foundation can be counted among those grassroots efforts. And for Coach Banda it’s personal.

As we celebrate our American Thanksgiving, 10 pallets of sports equipment and school supplies donated primarily by Capital Region residents are scheduled to arrive in rural Chituka Village in Malawi, Africa. Coach Banda will be on hand to accept delivery and assist with the distribution of the donations to underprivileged children of all ages in the sleepy little African town without electricity and running water.

“It will be as if I am giving them gold,” Coach Banda, who left the village in 1965 to come to the United States, said before departing for his trek across the Atlantic.

He would know because this is not the first time he has delivered supplies there. He was raised in the village, so he is intimately familiar with its people and their needs.

It was December 2007 when he first brought soccer equipment and school supplies to the children there, as well as to young people in surrounding villages. It was then that the idea of the Banda Bola Sports Foundation and the Chituka Village Project was hatched.

Children in Malawi face many adversities including extreme poverty, famine, drought, and diseases such as cholera, malaria and HIV-AIDS. Moreover, education is not mandated. While primary and middle schools exist, many of these schools lack the basic supplies and resources such as pencils, pens, notebooks and textbooks. As a result, many children do not have the opportunity to become engaged scholastically.

A typical class in a Malawi primary school has 60-100 students and one teacher. Most students have no shoes. During the rainy season many kids skip school because they don’t have dry clothes to wear.

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