Taking a penalty shot in soccer, it seems simple yet it has a lot of factors. Which way should you hit it, which way will the goalie go, how high, how hard. All of these factors come into play in the seconds before you take. You stand there at the spot thinking about all these things and you formulate a plan. Then you begin your run up and see the way that the goalie moves. Do you continue with your plan or do you change it mid-stride? You can continue with the plan and let fate decide or you can take matters into your own hands. This second of hesitation can cause the best laid plans to go out the window. You can sky the ball into the air, you can send it just outside the post or you can score. You can be the hero and no one will question the planning, the build up or the hesitation. All that that will matter is that you scored.
The lead up and follow through in a penalty is a lot like international development work. There is a planning period and your team makes very specific plans. Everything looks great on paper, you have everything worked out. Then the other side makes their move. You have to decide what to do in that situation, do you change the plan or do you stick to it at charge over the obstacle. All of these decisions have to be made quickly and without the benefit of knowing how the other factors are going to play out. In the end it will only matter if your project succeeds.
In my work at BASE I am again trying to figure out the game. We are crafting a comprehensive plan to combat child labour in 8 districts in western Nepal. We are in the run up stage right now, where everything looks perfect, but we know the employers of child labour will react. We know that they are starting to change habits and will change the industries in which they employ children and where they hide them. We must try and account for all the moves, but eventually we are going to take our shot and hope that our planning has paid off.
I have begun playing soccer again on a regular basis (Though I am currently sidelined by a leg that is twice its normal size and nowhere near its normal color). I play soccer everywhere I go and for the life of me cannot figure out why I left my cleats at home. I love the camaraderie it brings and it allows me to learn more about a society than almost any other way. As I was playing last week, a penalty for handball came up, Nepalese players call more handballs than anyone I know, and everyone called me to take it. As I walked up to the spot I thought back to my time in Honduras, where at the end of my last time there we had a huge game. Americans and the locals from Nuevo Pariaso against another town. We had uniforms that made us look like Argentina to honor our fearless leader Tiho Teisl. Towards the end of the game I was back on defense and we received a penalty. All the Hondurans called me up to take it. It was my 3rd time in Honduras and I had just spent six weeks there. I stepped up and sent the ball into the left side of the goal past an outstretched keeper and all of my Honduran teammates mobbed me. As I was called to take the penalty in Nepal I flashed back to that moment and smiled.
This is why I love international development work. I love the projects and working on making places better, but I love the people. In every country I have been in there have been moments just like the penalty shot, I have been given the opportunity to open festivals, go to weddings, make speeches and much more. The people everywhere are so welcoming that you never want to leave. I am so glad that Nepal is no different. As my first time outside of Central America I was worried about what I would find. Would Asia be totally foreign, would I be able to relate to the people? Luckily the answer is a resounding yes. The people of Dang have been nice as or nicer than anyone I have every met and this motivates me to work harder. It gives me extra motivation to try and find ways to stop child labour when I know what the beneficiaries look like and laugh like. It is easier to motivate myself to write proposals when I am so invested. I hope to get back on the field soon, because by being just who they are my fellow player are inspiring me to do better work.
Posted By Alex Kelly
Posted Aug 26th, 2012