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Policeman in poor district of Malawi builds a sports complex to ‘change lives’

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Over the past decade, our observer Kanduwa Sande has been working hard to promote sport in Machinga, a district in the Southern Region of Malawi, by building a sports complex that now features various facilities, which include an athletics track, a basketball pitch and a long jump pit. Kanduwa, who also works as a police officer, is driven by the hope that sport will help foster development, reduce crime and enable youth to thrive in his community.

Kanduwa reached out to us on Facebook to share his story. He told us that he has been working on the Machinga sports complex every day since 2011. The land is owned by the government and for a long time, it was in a depleted state. The district commissioner gave Kanduwa permission to renovate the grounds ten years ago and since then, he has completely transformed the space.

“Sport is a catalyst for development”

I wake up at 4.30am daily so that I can do some construction before beginning my day’s work as a police officer and I am also there during my lunch breaks and in the evenings.

© Observers

I have built lots of sports facilities from scratch. I use a peak, a hoe, a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a rake. I started with the running track and then built seats for spectators to be able to watch. It was successful, so I then decided to expand my project into a complex by building volleyball, netball and basketball courts. I then built a football pitch, a tennis court, a long jump pit and a kids corner with some games for them.

The most challenging facilities to build were the running track and the football pitch. For the track, I had to dig and remove lots of soil and remove trunks of trees. The football pitch was also difficult as I had to tilt 105 metres in length and 68 metres in width by myself with only a wheelbarrow. It was very time consuming. 

I really hope that I will be able to further expand the facility because it has so much more potential.

I hope that one day, the facilities that I have built will be used for major regional and international tournaments, which will in turn stimulate the local economic fabric and create long-term employment for our community.

Sport is a catalyst for development because people who are sporty are healthier and more active. It also prevents the youth from participating in harmful activities – they will come to my grounds to play sports instead. Sport speaks to young people in a language they can understand. It is very powerful.

“The facilities are accessible to everyone”

We also spoke to Merry Kholopa, a Primary School Education Advisor, about how the facilities have impacted children in the Machinga district. 

There are inadequate sporting facilities and qualified coaches in the majority of our district’s education institutions and in Malawi more generally. Kanduwa’s objective has been to reverse this situation in our community, he has been working on it every day, he has done such an amazing job so far. 

In many cities in our country, sporting infrastructure is only there for the privileged and those who go to private schools. But the facilities that Kanduwa has built are accessible to everyone. This is important, because sport can help many people in Malawi out of poverty.

There are also other benefits. Sport is an effective means to promote education and health. It is important for students to be able to run around and use their bodies, instead of staying seated all day.

Young people engaging in sports acquire important life skills like team building, communication and leadership. This not only improves their overall wellbeing, but for secondary students, it also better qualifies them for the labour market.

Observers © Observers

The grounds help develop talent at a grassroots level

Kanduwa’s grounds have helped many of Machinga’s youth exhibit their talent and unlock their potential. Some of the athletes that he has trained have won medals at regional and national tournaments. The Observers team spoke to Afali Gomiwa, who won a bronze medal in the 400m track event at Malawi’s 2019 National Open Championship.

I ran on the athletics track everyday after school. I would not have been able to perform at a national level had it not been for the track that Kanduwa built. It’s a privilege in our district. Not only did Kanduwa build the grounds, but he also trained me and wanted me to thrive. It changed my life.

Kanduwa Sande and his athletes who won medals
Kanduwa Sande and his athletes who won medals © Observers
Sande Kanduwa
Sande Kanduwa © Observers

With their capacity to bring people together and foster inclusion, sports are cited in the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development: they contribute to peace, the empowerment of women and young people as well as to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the areas of health, education and social cohesion.

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The Groucho

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