Building Friends, Developing People
I want to share a story today about one of the kids at the field – let’s call him James:
James is five years old. He is too young to participate in any of the programs at the Chris Campbell Memorial Field, but he is here everyday. As soon as the gate opens James makes his way to the field and spends most of his time hovering in and around the clubhouse. We’ve come to expect him to come into the office shortly after his arrival and to make his presence known using various methods including dancing, leaning across laps to stare seemingly mesmerized at computer screens, throwing around whatever toy he’s brought with him to the field that day, or chatting animatedly in Xhosa (unphased by the fact that many of us don’t have a clue what he’s saying).
This week, James had a minor injury at the field. He bumped his head on the edge of the door and cut his forehead. Although the cut was small it was sort of deep and it was a toss up whether or not we should take him to the clinic to get a stitch or two. To be on the safe side we decided the clinic was the best bet, but at 6:00 in the evening it was unlikely that he would be seen that night given the usual evening rush at the clinic. Since James lives right by the field, one of the program coordinators walked him home to explain the situation to his parents and leave it up to them if they wanted to take him to the clinic that night or tomorrow or not at all. They arrived at the house to find James’s father passed out from drinking and his mother nowhere to be found. They came back to the field.
At this point, James was looking a bit tired from his tearful episode earlier so we wanted to give him something to put in his stomach while we decided on the next step. I had some peanuts in my bag that I thought would be the perfect thing to help get his blood sugar up. James happily helped himself to the snack but his teeth were infected with cavities making it painful for him to chew something so hard. In the end his desire for the nuts had won and he finished the snack, but we decided the next morning we would take him to the clinic to have his cut examined (since most wounds can be stitched up to 24 hours after the injury) and to get him a general check up while we are there.
The next morning, James’s sister was home when one of the program coordinators fetched him from his house and, although she wasn’t particularly interested in taking him to the clinic, – and to be honest the cut looked much better and almost certainly didn’t need stitches but since this was an opportunity for him to get a check-up so we decided to go anyway – she agreed to accompany the coordinator and me. After three hours of waiting, we had to return to the field and, unfortunately, James and his sister decided to leave with us. James never saw the doctor.
I’m sharing this story not to make you feel sorry for James and other children who may have a similar living situation, but to show how tremendously important the CCMF is to kids in Khayelitsha. Obviously, James’ situation is difficult to say the least, but there has yet to be a day when he at the field without a smile on his face. There has yet to be a day when he isn’t laughing or dancing or singing. (There has also yet to be a day when he doesn’t cause some sort of trouble, but that’s another story.) Like so many other children in Khayelitsha, when James is at the field he is with his friends, he is safe, and he is having a blast. Considering that he’s too young to participate in programs, it’s even more promising to think of the impact that the CCMF has for program participants.
As hard as it is to accept that there are aspects of life for James and other children that are beyond our control, it’s equally uplifting to see the positive impact that the CCMF has on their overall well-being. The field offer s an environment that cannot be found elsewhere. It provides joy and a sense of belonging to hundreds of kids everyday and it is incredibly heartening to be part of something that yields that kind of happiness on such a broad scale.