After my first week of working with the kids my perspective has been exponentially broadened. I would not even consider it a perspective shift because I never really had a valid opinion to begin with in this circumstance. Arriving to the township was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I have been to some of the most impoverished areas in the largest cities of the United States, such as Stockton and Los Angeles, yet it still does not compare to Nomzamo. One of the biggest cultural differences were the people themselves. Kids in these townships are truly remarkable. They have confidence that I have never experienced in any kids their age. This confidence is an indicator of extreme potential.
Interacting with the kids for the first time was awesome. Right away they began calling me “Mohamed Salah” because of the famous Egyptian soccer player who had his hair done in a similar fashion. They had so much confidence no matter what their age. Icebreakers were not necessary because at initial contact the ice was already broken. It evoked two major emotions: excitement for my new relationships with these amazing, bold beings and curiosity as to why the kids in America behave so differently.
It is an interesting dynamic, because many kids in California, where I am originally from, have looks, wealth, family, and opportunity, yet have extreme insecurities that dictate their happiness and success on a daily basis. Here in Nomzamo you have less privileged kids who are presented with lesser opportunities, yet have more confidence than any other kids I have interacted with.
“I remember going to wrestling camps as a child around his age and looking at the college camp leaders as if they were the super-human. I never imagined of challenging one nor having the courage to tell one that I would eventually be stronger than him, yet here is this child telling a college wrestler that he will easily surpass my hard work in the near future.”
One day as we were carrying netball hoops back to the school a child grabbed my arm and noted how I looked muscular. He patiently followed me back to the storage unit where we put all the equipment. Upon finishing my task he immediately pulled me to a table in the courtyard and challenged me to an arm wrestling match. As soon as our hands interlocked a group of kids surrounded us and began witnessing our arm wrestling battle. I pretended to struggle and acted like I was losing at one point (because the kid was probably eight). All the kids were extremely excited at the chance that this young boy could defeat “Mohamed Salah” in an arm wrestling bout.
After several minutes I finally beat the young boy and he had a look of pure bliss on his face. All the other kids gathered around to arm wrestle me as well. Upon his defeat he looked at me and said “Salah, you are big and you are strong, but one day I am going to be bigger and stronger.” The confidence presented by this child was truly remarkable. One of my strongest characteristics as a child that helped me develop into a Division-I student-athlete was my courage and lack of fear. I remember going to wrestling camps as a child around his age and looking at the college camp leaders as if they were the super-human. I never imagined of challenging one nor having the courage to tell one that I would eventually be stronger than him, yet here is this child telling a college wrestler that he will easily surpass my hard work in the near future.
The confidence these kids have represents extreme potential. These children have confidence strong enough to take on the world. They just need the opportunity and resources that many other people in the world are privileged with at birth. It is truly inspiring to be in the presence of the kids of Nomzamo on a daily basis. It inspires me to do more to assist and support these children in their lives and journey towards being “bigger and stronger” than me.