UNB basketball player to travel to Africa for Right to Play


Melissa Foster will spend time in Africa with the Active Youth Organization

Bronté James
The Brunswickan (University of New Brunswick)

FREDERICTON (CUP) — Crossing the ocean on a 33-hour plane ride, Melissa Foster of the University of New Brunswick's women's basketball team is traveling to Lilongwe, Malawi, in hopes of improving nutrition and sport in the small village of Kuma, Africa.

Foster will be traveling to Africa through the Centre for Property Studies on the UNB campus, and will be working with the Active Youth Organization.

“Our main goals are to organize a soccer tournament for the whole community, and working on gender equality to try and get the girls and boys to participate together,” Foster said.

“We will be working a lot on nutrition, have a community cooking class, eating healthier and have energy-efficient stoves.”

Foster and the other interns will not only discuss proper nutrition, but will also be traveling to schools to help educate about HIV/AIDS, as well as alcohol-abuse and other forms of substance abuse.

“I’m just interested to see what goes on during a daily basis, especially child-related because I feel like it’s going to be so different from here.”

“The kids here are used to going to school Monday through Friday and in a community-based child care [system], it is going to be completely different.”

Going on a three-month long internship, Foster said she is excited to be surrounded by an entirely new culture.

“I’m looking forward to being in another culture and being immersed in it, and just learning a totally different perspective and new experiences. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some of my experiences with them.”

Having heard about the program from a girl who had been on the nine-month internship, and working with the Centre for Property Studies through Right to Play, Foster says one thing just led to the next and she was accepted into the internship.

With three groups spread out in Malawi, Luangwa and Mizzou, Foster says people are placed based on how they responded to their application.

“We can specify what we’d like to do. I said that I’d like to be with kids, and involved in sports and physical activity,” Foster said.

“Depending on what you want to do they place you in a specific spot and I was placed in Malawi.”

Getting three vaccinations — including one for Yellow Fever — and taking Malaria pills to prepare for the trip, interns are expected to take every precaution necessary for foreign travel.

Interns have to prepare physically and mentally, too. A three-day course in April will teach them the community’s religion, culture and everyday routines. As well, Foster says she is required to take online courses and read modules before her trip.

With limited communication available, Foster says she is nervous about the distance she has to travel away from home.

“I mean, if you’re homesick it’s not like you can just pick up the phone and call home. I’m a little nervous about the whole experience in general, but I know that Malawi is a really safe country and I’m going to be in a group which will help too.” At the end of her trip, Foster will be traveling to Rwanda for 10 days for a Global Youth Summit.

“I think it’s one of those things that you can try to prepare for, but no matter how much you prepare it’s still going to hit really hard once you get there.” – Melissa Foster

Having helped organize the Right to Play fundraising, Foster says she is looking forward to be being able to travel to these places and seeing first-hand the poverty, and knowing she is helping to make a difference.

“Youth from all over the world will be going to the conference in Kigali, Rwanda, so I’m very excited,” she said.

“We’re going to learn about sport for development and basically we’re going to be looking at what Right to Play actually does in the field. We’re going to facilitate a play day and see how they actually use their tools and their sports and their games to teach kids.”

Although Foster originally wanted to practice medicine, her prospects have changed. Since she became involved in athletic organizations whose goal is to help underprivileged children, Foster is starting to focus on International Development.

“This will definitely allow me to see if I enjoy it, and if it is something I want to pursue.”

Foster says she can read and prepare herself to an extent, but things may be completely different once she gets there.

“I do know a lot of people who have been on the trip, and hearing their stories has helped; it’s already been a little eye opening,” she said.

“I think it’s one of those things that you can try to prepare for, but no matter how much you prepare it’s still going to hit really hard once you get there

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