Hi, I’d like to take a minute to update you on a project Spirit of America recently funded in Niger that we first told you about here. Our partner, a US civil affairs team working to reduce vulnerability to extremism and radicalization in the central Nigerien city of Agadez, recently reopened a refurbished community basketball court. In conjunction with this event, the team co-hosted a basketball game and community gathering with the town’s mayor and other local leaders. The team first got the idea for the court renovation project when the Mayor of Agadez challenged them to a basketball game during their initial meeting. As the conversation continued it became clear that basketball was not only important to the Mayor but that, in this community, it was also closely associated with American culture. In this context, repairing a basketball court and hosting a game seemed like a natural way for the team to start building relationships and goodwill with this vulnerable community and its youth population. The court reopening, basketball game, and community event were a tremendous success and generated goodwill and a positive image for the team. Even weeks after the event, the city was still talking about it. The team was regularly greeted on the street by appreciative citizens who had attended the event. Additionally, the Mayor expressed his desire to continue working with the US in the future. The game also provided a convenient opportunity for the team to discuss ongoing security and political developments with local leaders in an informal setting while simultaneously enjoying some friendly competition. Efforts and events like this are a great opportunity for US personnel to learn more about the environment they are operating in but also contribute greatly to Nigeriens’ understanding of America, our culture, and our ideals. Such interactions lessen the effect of extremist messaging and societal vulnerabilities. Your support allows us to continue supporting events like this as well as other projects around the globe in the world’s toughest places. Thank you. Chris VanJohnson Project Manager – Africa
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.