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.”