Building Grit & Resiliency in the Hot Mali Sun!

by Merritt Frey, Executive Director

Over the last few weeks Mali Rising’s U.S. staff and Mali staff traveled together in Mali to visit our schools and partners. Over the next week or so, we’ll share stories from that trip on the blog.

One of the very best days of our recent trip was without a doubt the day of the big soccer match between the Beneko Birds and the Simidji Girls. These two village teams are made up of members of our Girls Groups in two of our three pilot villages for the Girls Project. Sports, and soccer in particular, are an important part of the project — building grit and resiliency in our girls.

And oh my is it working. Watching our girls play was like watching some kind of hybrid of soccer and karate. (It is simply a miracle that no one has broken a jaw yet.) Don’t believe me? Watch the video.

What the teams lacked in finesse they more than made up for in energy and determination. In the 100 degree sun, they ran, yelled, and worked together toward a goal…literally.

Watching the crowd was just as heartening as watching the girls play. Beneko hosted the game, and nearly the entire village came out to cheer. School windows became perches for students to watch, while the front lines were also full of parents and students. The coaches were like coaches anywhere — pretty near heart attack levels the whole time. And each school’s principal was absolutely engaged — stalking the sidelines screaming advice and cheering.

Thanks to our supporters, the girls of Beneko and Simidji have embraced their own strength and grit. And their peers and parents have seen just what a girl can do and achieve. We think that’s valuable beyond measure — thank you Girls Project supporters and a special thanks to the soccer team sponsors!

(PS Like all good soccer matches, this one ended 0 to 0. Soccer is about the journey people, not the destination.)