We are currently in Africa having the experience of a lifetime. We finish each and everyday physically and emotionally drained from trying to soak in everything. It’s a very different world over here, one that we are so thankful to experience. 

Mozambique: One of the top 10 poorest countries in the world. They have low literacy rates and high malaria and HIV rates. A lot of children stay at home to help with housework, take care of siblings, or go out and make money to support the family. Others skip out on school because they don’t enjoy it. In these circumstances, the children don’t get general education and they fail to foster the physical, social, and emotional development that is needed by young kids.

Right To Play is a global organization that came up with the idea of using the power of play to help educate kids. They found that if you incorporate games and activities into education, kids will learn better and school will be more enjoyable. Their focus is on quality education, teaching safe health practices, and creating peaceful communities. The success seen with this approach has moved Right to Play programs into 20 different countries worldwide, including the U. S. and Canada.

Right To Play contacted us a year and half ago and asked if we’d be interested in going over to Africa to see their programs in action. Our first question, “What’s Right To Play?”

We’re going to show you first-hand the awesomeness of this organization.

We were taken around to a number of different schools in rural Mozambique. Now when we say rural, we mean there weren't really any roads leading to these schools. Most of the kids have never seen or interacted with people outside of their own country. 

The first school we went to was Maciene Secondary school. This math class was learning about even and odd numbers.

After about 20 minutes in the classroom learning the general lesson, we would then go outside and play a game that related to what they had just discussed in class

After every game, the children always went back to the classroom to debrief and talk about what they had just learned during the game and how it related to their class lesson. 

At Xonguene primary school, the art teacher was teaching the students about inclusion and exclusion. They were asked to give examples of exclusion. Things like excluding people with disabilities, girls, and people of a different races were some answers that came up. The teacher then asked for a visual example so Ashton volunteered, went up to the board, and nailed it.  

One thing that stood out to us was when the students were asked to draw their own pictures of inclusion. The girl next to Brianne reached into her backpack, pulled out a piece of paper, a pencil, and a book to write on (the desks are really rough), and gave it to Brianne so she could also draw something. The kids write very small in their notebooks and other paper so they don’t waste it as it’s expensive for them to buy.  So even though this little girl didn’t have many school supplies, she was willing to give some to Brianne so she could draw also.

(Brianne’s drawing was so bad, the video crew kept it so that they could laugh at it later.)

This grade 7 science class at Chilembene primary school were learning about malaria, how you catch malaria, the effects of malaria, and how to prevent it.

As the teacher calls on students, they brainstorm, discuss, and come up with lists of answers. Then it was time to go outside and play a game...and this is where we'd see the magic happen. For the game, everyone stood in a circle and one student was inside the circle acting as the mosquito. The mosquito would then pick a random person from the outside and say one of the ways you could prevent malaria such as mosquito net, repellent, covering standing water, or cutting tall grass around your house. The other student would then have to do the hand signal for the prevention. If they failed, the mosquito got them and they go in the middle of the circle. 

Seeing the children’s faces while they played the games would just bring huge smiles to our faces. You could see the happiness and joy school was bringing to their lives, and that the material they were learning was actually sinking in.

Look at all those smiling faces.

This is Chongoene school...

And this is the grade 5 class.

One thing that really blew us away was the children’s engagement and excitement during class. Everyone wanted to participate and answer questions. We thought maybe this was just because they had visitors and a whole camera crew in their classroom, but Ashton secretly went to go watch through the back windows of other classes and the same thing was happening.

After school was over, we got to interact with the kids outside of the classroom. It surprised us how shy the students were when we'd first arrive at their school but after one game, they'd completely open up and we were their best friends. They were fascinated with our phones, loved when we took pictures and video of them, and when we showed them how to take a selfie, that’s all they wanted to do

You can’t go to Africa without playing a little football

The fist pump was also really popular. The kids went nuts about it when Ashton would teach them.

We had a life-changing experience with Right To Play. We had the opportunity to see how the power of play has helped children recognize their potential and realize their dreams. It has made them happier, more confident people, who are learning something new at school everyday. After seeing the success of this program, we think more playing needs to be incorporated into schools in North America. We believe in the power of play.

The Eatons

Eaton is brand and movement inspired and created by Olympic athletes Ashton Eaton & Brianne Theisen-Eaton. We live by one simple message: Endeavor. Always.