Team Talk Mara Diary Days 1 – 3

The Safari Collection, along with a number of partner organisations in Kenya, is helping to facilitate access to medical facilities, education and health care with an exciting new project:

Team Talk uses a combination of sport and workshops as a medium to encourage empowerment of girls and young women, and considerably improve their sexual education and self-awareness. Here’s a daily account of the Mara leg of this groundbreaking project.

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Day 1

We started our safari gently with a very comfortable overnight stay at The Safari Collection’s Masai Mara lodge Sala’s Camp. Thank you so much for your warm welcome after a long day of travelling, and all your help with logistics on the ground.

Thank you also to the Narok County Council, for waiving our park fees and enabling us to transit through the Maasai Mara National reserve free of charge.

We left Sala’s after a delicious breakfast and met up with Joe, the project Doc, at the Talek gate as planned and James from EGHO who had driven in after a late night arrival from UK the night before. We moved into our little blue home for the week and made our way the short drive to the school, arriving just as the final group of children arrived in the Koiyaki bus. Excitement levels were high as everyone anticipated what they would be doing over the following few days.

Wilson, the deputy headmaster welcomed the Team Talk team, The Mara Lion and Cheetah projects and the visiting children to the Endonyo Erinka school. We introduced ourselves to the children with a brief explanation of our roles in the team and the aims of the week. It is particularly important to us that the community is able to make the association between Team Talk, tourism and conservation. With that in mind we kicked off with an overview of the Mara Cheetah and Lion projects by Ruth and Eric, to highlight some of the issues.

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The students were all class 7 students from four local schools, Endonyo-Rinka, Ole Moncho, Ole Sere, and Oloibur-Murt.

As part of our evaluation process we completed the PRE – Team Talk questionnaires and then headed out for our first TAG session. We will be working with MCP and MLP all week to incorporate a conservation theme throughout the week starting with the team selection: all teams have been named after wild animals that can be found in the Maasai Mara, and are composed of a mixture of different children from each school. I wonder if the Wildebeest will outsmart the lions in this event, the buffalos certainly seemed to have the upper hand with the cheetah already – early days though…

The atmosphere is positive and we are looking forward to an amazing week…

DAY 2

This day started with an introductory TAG workshop for all the teachers by Ronnie and Raymond followed by an hour on the field to get a feel for the warm up drills, the ball and the Tag equipment.

After their first two lessons the children joined them for TAG Rugby, led by the local teaching staff, who were able to put everything they had learned into practice. Both the teachers and children were so positive and enthusiastic it was a very rewarding morning.

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Following a fun hour of sport, where the children were all interacting well, we moved back to the class for a session on self esteem led by Anne. It was interesting how nervous the children were in the class compared to the TAG field. They struggled to express feelings about themselves or identify things that refer to them-selves, instead regurgitating what they know to be right; for example when asked about things they like about themselves they answered “discipline” or “respect”, and were then unable to explain why that made them feel good.

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We noticed a big issue with language, which was unexpected, and the Mara Cheetah/Lion team helped as much as possible to help overcome this barrier. Towards the end of the hour we did feel that we had started to make some progress, which we optimized on in the afternoon workshop, which was more practical based with a few fun games, which helped to relax the children. We found we were able to talk more openly about self esteem and their own feelings about themselves afterwards.

We rounded off the day on the Tag field, reinforcing the lessons from the morning and consolidating skills in preparation to introduce the off side rule and tagging the following day.

DAY 3

This day started again with the coaches, this time covering the Tag Rugby Trust referee syllabus – followed by practice on the field.

The children joined them on the field after their lessons and afterwards we revisited the Self Esteem topic from the day before, trying to see if through the games we had played we could enable them to better express their feelings about themselves and their own strengths and weaknesses. We all felt that they were more open and that the students were better able to express their feelings about themselves when relating them to their experiences from the previous day.

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As a group we started to address issues such as stereotyping moving towards more controversial subjects such as gender violence and underage sexual activity. Again we felt that the children were finding it hard to express their own feelings and not just those that they know they are expected to have. In three years of doing Team Talk these children seem to be the most controlled by culture and parental belief than we have seen before.

In the afternoon we broke away into two groups one of boys and one girls. The girls were much less inhibited away from the boys and were happy to talk to us, although I am not sure they were completely honest. None of them admitted to having taken part in a sexual relationship and yet the boys openly admitted that they did have sex with the girls.We discussed subjects such as coercion, cultural and familial pressures and their attitude to education etc. All the girls seemed to have a good understanding of the benefits of education and what they stood to loose by getting pregnant.

They have lots of neighbours and friends who have already been married and they all without exception wanted to work for a better life. Interestingly, they all said that their families were supportive of them being in school and they did not feel any pressure to leave and be married. During this we talked about the menstrual cycle and we introduced them to the cycle beads that were donated to us by Haller Trust, which the girls were super excited about.

The boys continued the discussion of stereotyping in their group and some of the issues raised at the morning session and moved onto challenging the perceived roles of men and women and if they felt ready to alter the status quo.

They have all been exposed to gender violence in the home, and some of the boys were able to accept that this may not be the only way to deal with the situation, where others feel that this is entrenched in their culture and is not wrong. They still fall very much under parental control and they would not challenge an arranged marriage.

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An interesting part of our day has been sharing information with the school teachers at break times, and today the teachers told us how much more the children were getting form this experience than we had considered. Apart from confidence and the exposure to new ideas and a new sport the whole experience benefits them by improving their language skills and their vocabulary amongst other things.

Unfortunately the afternoon tag session was rained off, not that the rain was not welcome the area is very dry. We joined the Mara Cheetah project in the evening to watch a fascinating movie about cheetah, which the children absolutely loved.

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