Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi was established in 1994. Plan International Malawi (PIM) has been providing protection services to refugees and asylum seekers in Dzaleka refugee camp since 2014 when it partnered with UNHCR. The population of refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi currently stands at 50,615 individuals. Most of the new arrivals are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), specifically from the province of Sud Kivu.  

Dzaleka refugee camp has 15 football teams, with some teams participating in national and regional football leagues and tournaments. PIM runs a football tournament on peaceful co-existence for host and refugee communities. Patrick Generaux is a 21-year-old football player, originally from DRC.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your football life?

My name is Patrick Generaux from the Democratic Republic of Congo but currently residing in Malawi. I am the only child of my mother and father, and I am 21 years old. I have lived my entire life in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. I came here when I was just a little baby. My parents left their home country because of war and other insecurities. Football has always been my passion. Despite being a refugee, I have always dreamt of becoming a professional footballer. I am now temporarily living in Lilongwe, playing for one of the teams in the city.

What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?

The photos were taken at our local football pitch. I tried communicating that football is a game for everyone and it requires everyone’s participation. This is the same as change. Change is a process that begins with one person and it then requires everyone else to make it a reality. 

In one photo I am standing with two of the goalkeepers. The goalkeeper on my left is a person who I call a fighter because he is a young boy who has gone through a lot of negativity in his family life. His family always discourages him from playing football but he conquers all the nay-sayers and he does what he believes in. He is one of the best goalkeepers in my community. Goalkeepers defend the colors of our team. If we want to fight for something we need everyone. Change is not a one-man army.

In other photos I showed two of my coaches who help me develop my skills every time I get on the field, as well as football matches and pre-match preparations.

Why is football important to you and your community?

I am a young man who likes taking on challenges because I know I cannot grow if I am afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. 

Football is very important to me and my community as it acts as an occupation for many youths of my age. Being able to play football is like a barrier to stop them from getting involved with drugs and other substances. This helps a lot because many of our young people are going through a lot of issues and they like to play football to relieve themselves from trauma and stress. 

What role does football and Plan International play in your life at the moment? Who do you play with?

Football plays a major role in my life at the moment because it keeps me motivated and believing that one day I will be what I always want to become. Plan International Malawi helps a lot because it never stops supporting children of my community who have different ambitions. 

They support the community by helping us play sports, football in particular. Football is a game which one cannot play alone, and I love to play football with everyone, whether they are from our host country or from my fellow refugee community. 

What ambitions do you have for the future?

I want to become a social worker so that I can help children in my community. There are so many young and talented people in my community that do not have support. I would like to be able to help them. I would also like to become a professional footballer in the future. 

This article was first published by Goal Click

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