This place is Kayama, one of the most dangerous areas of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. You must have lived to understand the codes. You have to stop, maybe only for a few hours, to take the whole dimension of the place. And again, no doubt you will only lift a little bit of the veil, because you will only see it by day. At night, forget it.
Despite this portrait that would not give anyone the desire to do a picnic there, Kayama attracts the eye of those who know how to look beyond appearances, because if there is a place on Earth that is synonymous with life it is here. From sunrise, and as soon as the place is emptied of its nocturnal bands, Kayama looks like a molten hive. Incessant traffic, hundreds of small shops, a universe of resourcefulness pushed to its paroxysm, thousands of young people running, playing, shouting, having fun. This is the Kayama that you will discover without a doubt.
600,000, this is the approximate number of inhabitants in the neighborhood. Difficult to know with accuracy. In the middle, at first sight invisible, is the Saint Daniel Comboni Social Development Center (SDCSDC), which aim is to support the holistic development of children, youth and women, through socio-educational programmes, in synergy with the local community and other organisation.
Sister Yvette was born in the United States, in a place driven by violence as she explained to the Zambian Judo Association, Judo for Fred (Norway) and IJF representatives who visited the centre at the end of November. She knows what she is talking about.
Behind a fragile old lady look, who has dedicated her life to others, lies a strong character who soon saw that judo could bring something to the whole community: "The majority of people don't have much here. There are really tough situations. But they are good people. They are just trapped in an economical situation that they can't escape from. They can't even afford to send their children to school and that's why we are here for. To give them a hand. To support them as much as we can and I must say that judo is a great help.“
The centre offers activities in a caring and constructive environment. Children and women are thus helped to improve their physical health and develop positive social behavior and new skills. The area of intervention are informal education, personal development and sport.
SDCSDC provides social services for the community such as counseling, psychological support and legal aid, in synergy with governmental and non-governmental institutions. Children are offered literacy programmes to reinforce reading and writing skills and variety of workshops and seminars on art, music, drama, health, environment and sport are organized.
Sister Yvette explained: “Our objectives are to support the education of the children with a specific focus on women. We believe that through education, we will help them to change the face of Kanyama.“
Alfred Foloko, President of the national judo federation, who was among the guests of the centre in November, said: “Crime and illegal activities are 'normal' here. But judo possesses the values to help. One of the first area where our sport can provide support is in self-defense, especially for the women and the vulnerable people, but we can give more to the whole community.“
It's been two years that judo at SDCSDC has been successfully running: “You should see all the children, when the coach arrives in the compound. Suddenly it is like light is landing on their faces. They all smile and they all want to participate in the activities. It is actually difficult to describe all the benefits that judo brings here. We are so happy that the sport is present here. It is not just about having fun, and having good time. It changes the mentalities of the people.“
This is not a revolution, but a steady evolution. Step by step, judo is taking roots in Kanyama and more and more children are willing to start practicing: “Judo is even a victime of its success. There are too many children who want to take part in the judo session. We have the be strict and make sure that they can practice in the best conditions possible“, explained Sister Yvette.
What is guaranteed is that the ZJA, Judo for Fred and IJF delegation could witness the change and could highly appreciate what judo is doing on a daily basis to improve the society and hopefully offer a better world to the next generations. Judo definitely gets the best of the worst.