New Jersey based F3B Global Scholar Athlete organization took their program to the motherland for the 12th consecutive year. During the summer of 2010, they partnered with the US Embassy in Mozambique and ran their program at a public secondary school in Namaacha. The quaint, sleepy town of Namaacha, according to Rueben Hernandez, Country Director, Peace Corps Mozambique, was the ideal place to host the program because of the warmth of the people, the receptiveness of the community and the needs of the local youth. The town lies 80 kilometers west of Maputo (capital city) and borders Swaziland. It is well known for its colonial church and for its waterfall.
F3B is a small, NJ based 501c3 organization and its mission is to increase international awareness and communication between American and African teenage girls. This mission is achieved in phases; the first one includes an athletic-leadership camp which is annually deployed in two countries in Africa during the summer. The athletic-leadership camp includes 35 hours of basketball and 30 hours of leadership development in areas such as Communications, Team Building, Leadership, Conflict Resolution, Wireless Technology and HIV/AIDS awareness. During phase two, select African athlete-scholars from the previous summers and host countries are invited to the US. During a three week stay in the States, the young women attend a science and technology camp for secondary students at a local university, participate in a basketball camp, again at a local university, sight see in NJ and NY, and participate in a three day introduction to the world of Telecommunications and Engineering at Alcatel-Lucent, one of F3B’s primary sponsors. While at Alcatel-Lucent, they learn about the newest innovations in telecommunications, how and why their cell phones work and are mentored by women engineers. By the end of their three day “work week” they have an appreciation of what it actually means to work as an engineer and why it is critical to be strong in Math and Science if one wants to pursue a career in the field of engineering. Phase three of the program consists of on-going mentoring by the F3B leadership team for all of the participants and often these relationships span the remainder of the participant’s formal education and beyond
The US 2010 team consisted of five high school athletes from New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts and the professional development team. The professional development team included two photographers, one student journalist, two college/university level lead coaches (Paterson and Merrimack University) a nurse, three electrical engineers, and one manager from Alcatel-Lucent, security personnel, and a communications expert from the State of NJ. In addition to the US team, additional staff from the US Embassy in Mozambique included Cultural specialist, Anacleto Machava, Ethan Tabor, Public Affairs Office and a bevy of other staff who worked with us to ensure the projects success. The community of Namaacha provided translators, spiritual advisors (nuns), security and high school liaisons.
The program was a resounding success and was at times an experience in culture shock. The long days consisted of the classroom and basketball ball work, hanging out with the African participants, answering questions of curious students who were not selected to participate in the program, as well as visits to a local orphanage, a near by village, snacks at a teacher’s home, trying to call home and assure the parents that all was well, hiking to see the famous waterfalls (which were not quite overflowing since it was winter in Mozambique), hauling water for showers and laundry, appreciating local cuisine at the high school cooked over an open fire in large vats e.g., chicken head soup for lunch and dinner every day, bread and tea for breakfast (6:00 am sharp or no breakfast because the food ran out), shopping at a local, traditional African market, visiting the Embassy and learning about the projects being implemented by the US government to assist with the countries development needs, a weekend at a guest house in Swaziland and the culminating experience – sightseeing in Johannesburg and visiting the Alcatel-Lucent offices in South Africa.
As usual, the F3B experience was a life altering one for all participants even those who had worked with the organization before. According to some of the girls, they really appreciated their families more and the sacrifices being made to ensure their quality of lives; some looked forward to going back to school and studying harder since they now know that free, public school education as they know it, is not a given in countries like Mozambique; some could not wait to have an American meal and some have already signed up for 2011.