To get to the Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement takes time, a long time, time which allows you to better understand what may seem incongruous. Practising judo in these remote places, however, is in fact completely natural and necessary.
On the road to the Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement

Several hundred kilometres separate the camp from Lusaka and the most efficient way to connect Mayukwayukwa is to take the road. This implies having patience, but this patience is necessary and above all it is useful.

With a little luck, you might come across the emblematic animals of the African savannah

First of all, you have to get out of the capital, which can take a while because like all big cities, traffic is heavy. You then have to connect to Kaoma, located 400 km away in the Western Province. To do this, you have to cross the Kafue National Park, where, with a little luck, you might come across the emblematic animals of the African savannah. You then have to add up the kilometres in the heart of the Zambian countryside on a road that becomes more and more chaotic. All life here revolves around the road which is both a place of exchange and transport and which plays the role of artery, circulating the vital energy of an entire nation.

All life here revolves around the road

This is obviously a different world from the one we might experience in Western countries. Here it is the normality of the simple life of millions of residents, most of whom live off the earth’s offerings but this gift comes at a price, that of hard work in heat that can be overwhelming.

All along the road, you must observe a society whose energy is that of its arms and legs. The mobile phone that appeared slowly is not yet omnipresent; here we still communicate verbally, with words and gestures. The children are not yet drowned in virtual images, still having fun at the edge of the asphalt ribbon with simple things.

There are many children, very many in fact

There are many children, very many in fact. You may have the impression that they are left alone but you quickly notice that everything here is a question of community and mutual aid. Nobody can survive alone, especially here. The older ones take care of the younger ones and they all run in all directions. There is energy, a lot of energy, which, if it could be transformed into electricity, would supply the whole country.

Whomever says energy also means channelling it, so that all of this fragile machinery remains viable. When you finally stop at Mayukwayukwa, exhausted, it only takes a few minutes for dozens of schoolchildren in uniform to come to meet you and boost you as you would have never expected. There is still a great innocence in the looks you meet. There is also, despite the hullabaloo that you create, a lot of respect and infinite politeness. To say hello and thank you still means something here.

There is still a great innocence in the looks you meet

Everyone says hi, waves to you, smiles at you and it’s nice and refreshing. After the usual good-natured jostling, you finally find yourself on a tatami and there all the energy previously felt is transformed into play energy and happiness.

Among those present, many have experienced serious trauma that their eyes betray despite the smiles. Many have a difficult life, like all the children you meet on the road. Many just want one thing, to simply be children, nothing more, nothing less.

Everyone says hi, waves to you, smiles at you

In Mayukwayukwa, as in Meheba and in all the other refugee camps in which the Judo for Peace programme is active, the main purpose is to ensure that the youngest can fully live their best years, that they gradually build a personality that will allow them to face trials and challenges, and that they slowly find hope.

One of the particularities of the IJF programmes, in partnership with national federations such as in Zambia, the UNHCR, NIF and all institutional or private partners, is that they are inclusive. Everyone has their place, displaced populations and local communities alike. It is the union of all the beneficiaries who contribute to creating the conditions for renewed dreams.

Everyone has their place

You have to have crossed Zambia, you have to have travelled its roads and seen the reality of life in these isolated areas to understand that judo has its place there. It allows here and elsewhere to break down barriers and encourage people to meet and talk. It simply allows us to move together and ensure that differences become strengths.

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