Regathering Old Friends for New Purposes

In September of 2015, after Erasing Boundaries had come to an end, Taylor and his colleagues, Maxwell Smith and Kameron Selby, regathered under a new name: Coastal Laboratories (Co. Lab). This organization was built with the purpose of working with Africa New Health Horizons to bring further change to the warring and conflict-heavy areas of Africa. The first step: packing their bags—complete with an assembly of soccer equipment—and travelling to East Congo with Dr. Kigabo and Africa Health New Horizons to study how to build a new clinic. It was that simple, yet wholesome task that would soon come to be known as ‘Project Minembwe.’

“We arrived in Minembwe not knowing what we we’re getting ourselves into. The territory had recently entered a peaceful state after decades of hostile relations among its people,” Taylor says. “We went with the intention to study their needs so that we could build a clinic, but what we found was a need for a much bigger facility, one that would work to promote the people of Minembwe to gather and build a more complete community together.”

For Co. Lab. And Africa Health New Horizons, this understanding came easily. The local people had taken their interest in soccer to a further level, creating teams and season/ tournament schedules. They were building a life together around their love for the sport, something that nobody could have predicted. Between the visits in 2014 and 2015, the people of Minembwe had created a soccer infrastructure on their own, assembling 32 complete teams and an organizational administration dedicated to managing a structured league. As it stands even today, the administration staff are managing the soccer leagues out of a small, 10×10 mud hut with sticky notes. The teams are also going to great lengths to be able to play together, with many of them travelling up to 35 miles to get to the soccer center in Minembwe and then having to walk those same miles back to their villages after the games have concluded. Since most of the games end near sundown, far-travelling teams are forced to walk during the night.

If soccer brought them together, then soccer would be the best catalyst for continuing to build up that community.

“A clinic was necessary, but the bigger picture was simple: provide a place for these people to come together. We saw that the need these people had begun with what had started to bring them together. That’s where the decision to build a center around a soccer field was made,” Taylor says.

With this new sense of direction, Coastal Laboratories and Africa Health New Horizons went to work on putting together a plan for a community center focused around a soccer field. The need for a clinic is still very much there, but so are so many other things. “The need for a clinic is still very present. On top of that, there’s a need for a place for learning and talent trading. We plan to include classrooms that will enable everyone to trade skills and talents, learn something new from each other.”

The new plans include three program initiatives. Program One will include office space for league administration, as well as event space for gathering communities. Program Two involves an installation of a trained and stocked medical clinic, with a gym designed for athletes and local community members. Program Three will have three separate buildings. One will feature lockers for soccer players, one will be a dormitory to host visiting teams overnight, and one will contain classrooms that the community can use to learn new skills and trades, as well as hear from visiting educators and professionals. And, of course, these facilities will surround a central soccer field that athletes will be able to play their league matches and tournaments on.

While some might see this as a huge undertaking, and it certainly is, Dr. Kigabo sees it as his responsibility to put forth the tools and resources that Africa Health New Horizons has, combined with those of Coastal Laboratories and other experts, to provide the people of Minembwe with this center.

So what’s the future for Project Minembwe? Follow along on the Project Minembwe Journey Page.