On my recent trip to Madagascar I was proudly led to the new basketball court in the suburb of Tanambao, Morondava. On both ends of the court kids were playing a pick-up game. The game on the south end was fast moving but the one of the north end was limping along because their ball had been pierced by a thorn and dribbling was out of the question. They were all happy to have a place to play. Before leaving Morondava, I got Bishop Donald Pelletier, M.S., to write about the basketball court and its tremendous meaning for the youth of Tanambao:
The question most often asked is: How is your AIDS situation in Madagascar and what are you doing to prevent and protect your people from AIDS? The situation in Madagascar is one of the lowest of the African Continent which doesn't mean that we can sit back and wait for it to become endemic. Having a very high rate of venereal deceases we should have a much higher percentage of AIDS. But it is very difficult to get exact figures as the government monitors all tests.
In any case the church remains very active and, through education, we hope to help people – especially youth – to be aware of the danger of this terrible virus. We do have programs in all our schools. All our youth groups are initiated to responsible living and the possibility of true love.
I have been to many civic and educational meetings in the city and surrounding areas. There have been endless discussions and so many proposals on how best to protect our youth. There is a lot of money available and much of it is wasted on posters, slogans and of course the one and only safe and sure method proposed – the condom.
|Bp/Donald Pelletier, M.S., at the grand opening of
the new basketball court, throws up the basketball.
In our approach, however, we want to be positive through education and, we also believe that, through healthy activities, we can expect good results. There are not enough distractions, not enough activities for the youth, no sporting facilities, no cultural or youth centers where they can meet. I am a strong advocate of sports as a powerful means to protect our youth from AIDS. We have here in Namahora the largest and most popular sport facility in the city of Morondava. My hope is that every suburb would be equipped with sports facilities.
The suburb of Tanambao remains the poorest. It also has the highest rate of unwed mothers. But it has one big advantage – it is surrounded by large expanses of salt flats which, naturally, fill up during high tide. We did the impossible when we decided to bring in land-fill – we needed to raise the ground level by at least two feet – to build a basketball court. The entire project was financed by the parish and people of Tanambao at a cost of $14,000.00.
We were hoping to inaugurate for the National Holyday, June 26th, but work could not be completed. So inauguration was held on Sunday, July 13th. I have never seen people so proud of an achievement and they do have reason to be so. It is like faith that can move mountains. As this new court is a church project I was invited for the first toss while two young boys reached for the sky. It was a great day and I do hope to convince all the UN funding agencies that Healthy Sports are a great means to protect our youth from AIDS.
The suburb of Namahora has the largest and most popular sport facility in the city of Morondava.