FairFight first started its work in Zimbabwe in January 2015, when the founders Ginie Servant and Alex Whitcomb went to Zimbabwe with 10 students from Erasmus University College Student Association. After three weeks of intense training in karate and kick-boxing, the group left the project in the hands of Sensei Gerald Muusha, head of Marondera Karate Club and former Zimbabwe national kata champion. A year has passed an as a new group is about to head back to Zimbabwe in January 2016, we wanted to reflect on the progress of our project on the ground for the past 12 months.
Our main project took place at Nagle House, an all-girls catholic high school in the centre of Marondera. By the end of the group’s stay in Zimbabwe, we had a group of about 25 committed girls, all outfitted with the gis that we bought or that were donated to FairFight. Fortunately for the girls, Nagle House agreed with Sensei Gerald to let the girls train once per week, a schedule that Gerald and Senpai Wallen Mapondera managed to keep going throughout the year. As it always goes with karate, some girls left after a while, under pressure from school work or from their families, and new girls came to train instead. Despite great personal difficulties, Gerald managed to keep a group of 15 girls on track for their yellow belts, and we feel it important to remind ourselves that he did this unpaid, purely for the love of martial arts.
FairFight hit its first challenge on the ground when the yellow belt exam came and half of the girls could not afford the exam fee of 10 dollars! Indeed, in Zimbabwe an external examiner is required for all exams, and this had to be paid for. We learned about this quite late in the game and sending the money to Zimbabwe took some time, but by late October, all of the girls that were ready to do so had either received their yellow or yellow-stripe belts - we now have a dozen coloured belts in our club! In addition, Gerald took five of our girls to their first competition on November 28th, and one of them came first in kumite! We have high hopes for their future as competitive karateka, and so does Nagle House, who have authorised Gerald to teach twice a week in view of the good results.
When we return to Zimbabwe in January, we hope to finalise preparations for the girls’ orange belts, and perhaps even help Gerald to give the exam. Thanks to the donations we received, we’re bringing high quality competition gear with us so that our girls are not let down by poor equipment when they compete nationally and perhaps even internationally. We can’t wait to go back, bring karate to a larger group of girls, and sharpen the skills of the girls who have been with us for a whole year now.
Although we tried our best, we were not able to resolve the logistical issues with Monte Cassino mission school, which we were only able to visit once in January. This school is so remote that Gerald could not make his way there once we were gone and there was no car at his disposal anymore. We will go back to give a self-defense workshop there next January, but we do recognize that logistics matters when it comes to the long-term commitment of our local martial arts teachers! Instead, we will be opening a new project at a second school much closer to Marondera, which Gerald will be able to support once we go.
With only four weeks to go until we return, we’d like to thank you once again for your support of the project!