Fall 2023 newsletter
Steve and Loyce Veryser, Tanzania
A few weeks ago, I attended one of the basketball games of our Bwiru Boys Technical Secondary School for the first time. The team looked great in sharp black and white uniforms, donated to the league from teams in Europe, and our players took to the court with confidence.
Hussein, their very competitive sports teacher, encouraged them from the bench. I was watching from a shady spot on a bench with other fans. After a few minutes they were down, and the opposing team’s lead was growing. I quickly realized they could use some basic strategy tips. Basketball isn’t common in Tanzania as sports are dominated by soccer and netball.
I walked around the court to the team bench and started offering Hussein with tips like “The two tallest guys should stay near the basket,” “On defense they should stay between their man and the basket,” “Getting rebounds is key for turnovers,” and clarifying some of the rules — for example, that you’re allowed two steps up to a lay-up but none to a jump-shot.
At half-time our team was losing 24 to 14. Hussein gave them some motivational tips and then invited me to talk strategy.
They quickly picked up some of the concepts and, with some good passing and lucky breaks in the second half, rallied to win 46 to 42! It was their second game of the tournament, and with two wins put them in the lead of all eight teams. They were exhausted but elated at the end of the game.
Back at school, their court is dirt and their only ball had popped. I got them a new orange Spalding indoor-outdoor ball from one of the few sports shops in town. The rains here started at the beginning of September and the court turned from flat and dusty to rutted hard pack. Hussein drew on his soccer expertise to get them started with a challenging conditioning session — running up and down a small hill for half an hour. I prepared a theory lesson to review rules, positions and basic strategy.
When I joined them for a scrimmage, playing forward, and our team started to dominate the match despite not having the best players, they really started to get the concepts.
Hussein worked with the masonry technology teacher to put together a budget to pour a slab for the court. The headmaster came up with rocks for hardcore and some cement for the project. I offered to help raise funds to cover other costs, about $6,000.
Please help us to make it happen.
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Meanwhile, at Kitangiri Secondary, where Loyce teaches, the 1,100 students at the school are struggling with a water problem. The school has city water, but when the water cuts out — which it does often, even for days at a time — they don’t have water for washing hands, cooking and cleaning. Students are often sent about half a kilometer to Lake Victoria with buckets to carry water back up the hill to the school. This makes for a lot of missed classes, as well as illness due to using the dirty lake water.
School inspectors advised the head of school to put in a reserve tank and handwashing stations a number of months ago, but they haven’t had the funds to make it happen.
Loyce and I agreed to help find funding for the project. We have managed to erect the stands for the tanks with funds we had on hand but are asking for your support to cover about $3,000 for the estimated cost of the piping to the toilets and sinks for handwashing. We’ve combined the fundraising for the basketball court at Bwiru Boys and the water system at Kitangiri Secondary at the same GiveLively page.
Jesuit “God in all things” spirituality might draw parallels from playing positions on the basketball team with us in the Church as different parts of the Body of Christ. Sometimes we’re called to use talents we didn’t realize we had (like myself being called on as resident basketball strategy expert, just from having grown up in the U.S. with the game).
We’re inviting you to offer your talents and play a part in these projects, just as the school communities invited our support. We thank you for your prayers and support, which keep us in mission.
Please help us to raise funds for these two projects in Mwanza secondary schools with a donation through the button below.