• October 28, 2014

My New Home Team!

by Kelly Niklason, on her first month in the Heart’s Home Center in Manila, Philippines

“As many of the chil­dren love to play sports, over the years our com­mu­nity has orga­nized a few ath­letic teams for the boys and girls of Navotas as a way to reach out to them, give them some­thing to do, and to help keep them out of idle trouble. At the end of my first week, I went with Severine and Santhosh to take some of the high-school-aged boys an hour into Manila City for a bas­ket­ball game. Another French vol­un­teer orga­ni­za­tion started up a league for street boys—now there are about 9 teams that come to play every two weeks in a small out­door court.

It is always fun watching a game and having your own team to root for with your own colors and team mascot! I was struck by the real­iza­tion that this team of seem­ingly unruly boys was now also “my team”, my “home team.” That is not how I saw this team at first: here were 9 boys that we were trying to round up and keep under con­trol so that we could actu­ally help them have a real bas­ket­ball game in the big city against another team. We were doing them a favor.

It was not until seeing their enthu­siasm and team pride out on the court that I began to see that these young men were no dif­ferent from the guys at home. Placed in the same sit­u­a­tion as most high school guys at home in the U.S., or in other less impov­er­ished set­tings, these young men would be pre­sented with many oppor­tu­ni­ties for fur­ther edu­ca­tion, future jobs, col­lege schol­ar­ship­s—not to men­tion plenty of food on the table. These very guys taught me so much by their simple joy and grat­i­tude for such an oppor­tu­nity as this. I was moved to see how they trea­sured what they did have and to see that our pres­ence, our time spent with them, and our faith in their ability to com­pete in bas­ket­ball was enough at that moment. Who knows what the future holds for these young men?

Anyways, on that one night, they played very well as a team and we were able to come out with a win! Afterwards we gath­ered for Mass, and we fin­ished by stop­ping to treat them at a ham­burger stand on the street.”

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