Before leaving Addis for Kembata-Tembaro, Kahlyn and I made a visit to a Ra'ey Youth Soccer Organization practice. Kahlyn and I both grew up playing (Kahyln continued on to play on Seattle University's Division 1 program), and share a joy in helping to provide access to the beautiful game. My shoulder forced me into being the photographer of the day, while Kahlyn happily suited up. She was the lone girl on the field, but easily held her own, and gained the respect of the players and coach along the way.
Mikyas Woldemichael, a very good friend of ours, created the Ra'ey Organization during his trip to Addis last year. While I was back in the States, Mikyas lived at my place in the Jan Meda neighborhood. He noticed that many of the communities kids would fill the allys kicking around playing soccer using balls of bound discarded plastic bags. Mikyas inquired if the kids would be interested in forming a team, so they could play competitively in Addis's youth club leagues, he received a unanimous... of course! Mikyas took it upon himself to purchase some basic resources, balls, jerseys, socks and began coaching the team once a week. He received an out-pour of interest. Over 25 kids excitedly met every Saturday morning to learn and play the sport they all cherished.
In late September Mikyas was returned to the States to finish his University Education and dedicate gimself to fundraising for the organization. Before leaving, he hired an experienced coach, and since the Ra'ey club has continued. Since last summer the small neighborhood team has grown greatly in management, number of players, and coaching. The team is playing competitively, and is looking forward to expanding the club further. In two weeks time the first girls try-out will be held. The coach is hoping to field a woman's team before the rainy season begins. Awesome huh?
Currently The Ra'ey board of directors (Mikyas moves fast) and Ethiopia Reads are discussing the integration of Ra'ey's programming with Team Tesfa and Ethiopia Read's Sports for Development. I am thrilled to assist in laying the ground work for what will become a driving force in pairing sports with educational opportunities in Ethiopia.
Be sure to check out the Ra'ey Youth Soccer Organization's newly crafted website. You can read more about the club, the long term goals of the organization, as well as donate to the cause.