TackleAfrica is full of brilliant staff members with wonderful stories to tell and they all deserve to be celebrated for their invaluable work providing sexual and reproductive health education to the communities and individuals who need it most. None of our staff do their jobs to be the focus of attention, and while this helps make them great at their work it often means that they don’t get the recognition they deserve. The success stories they have helped create don’t get heard by enough people. Well it is time this changed.
Welcome to the TackleAfrica Stories series. We will be telling those stories which you do not hear about but need to. The firsthand stories of our coaches’ impact on their communities. The stories that brings TackleAfrica to life.
With this in mind, we can only start in one place. Here is the story of one Edson Sialutaba.
Edson Sialutaba,our longest serving member of staff having started his TA journey in 2008!
Project Coordinator for Zambia, Edson is described as a “legend” amongst the TackleAfrica team. Nicknamed ‘Big, Strong, Reliable’ by his colleagues, he was kind enough to find some time amongst his busy schedule to tell us a little bit about himself, the work he does, and how TackleAfrica is helping to change lives in Zambia.
“My job is exciting, it’s something I love and am passionate about!”
A hardcore Liverpool fan, Edson works as Project Coordinator for TackleAfrica in Zambia where he helps to organise and deliver football courses, supporting and developing project officers and coaches so that they can deliver the best standard of coaching sessions to their players.
“That’s the thing I love the most, helping developing other people to become better at the things they do!” But most important to his job he says is “making a change in the world through delivering quality sexual and reproductive health sessions to young people who haven’t had the opportunity to break down those barriers and cultural norms on things like contraceptive use.”
Edson running through a TA drill for his players at the TAMANGA academy in Emmasdale, Lusaka
Having been at TackleAfrica for 12 years now, Edson started as a coach before becoming a project officer for 5 and a half years, eventually stepping up to take the lead as Project Coordinator. With multiple job roles and numerous years under his belt, Edson has witnessed the growth of TackleAfrica first hand: “I’ve seen TackleAfrica come from where it started to where it is now” he says, “When TackleAfrica started they would come in, show us a few drills before having to head back, so it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and where we are heading now.” back in 2008 when Edson started it was just him and one other. Now TackleAfrica employ 11 full time staff across Zambia.
“I’m proud I was able to make that change and help them accept their status, if they didn’t they might have died.”
Edson showing his players that he still has it!
Inevitably, he says his job gives him a lot to be proud of. “There are a number of things I could single out, but if I had to single one out it would be helping someone accept their HIV status. For someone who’s a teen in their young age accepting their status isn’t easy. The parents don’t always know how to go about it, informing their child they are HIV positive.”
There is one story in particular that Edson says sticks with him, when the parents of a girl on one of the teams he was coaching called him to ask for help with their daughter. Their child was aware of their HIV status, but as Edson knows, helping people reach a point of acceptance is often the real task. “Those girls trusted me as someone who gives them quality information… I can make it possible for that girl to know her status, accept it and live with it.” The risks that come with a lack of education and acceptance are clear to Edson: “Imagine if they didn’t accept their status, they’d be having health issues or they might not be alive right now.” But thanks to the help of Edson, others at TackleAfrica and the support of those around her, the girl was able to understand what her status meant, learn to live with it. Now, many years later, she is happily married with two healthy children!
Edson, his coach and his players finishing a TA session with the ‘Dab’ Kilo
“When you come to Zambia you’ve come to a friendly country!”
One of the unexpected joys of his job according to Edson is the chance to experience all Zambia has to offer. From working in rain storms by the Victoria Falls, spending time on the beaches in the south of the country and getting the chance to see a White Rhino, he says his job has allowed him to reflect on the things that make his home country great. “It’s great for me that where I work I also have the opportunity for adventure, to see the world and wildlife.”
But for Edson, the opportunity for travel is only made better by of the job he does. “While you’re working on projects and changing people’s lives you see the most enjoyable things and get to share that experience with others!” It is the Zambians themselves that Edson loves especially, as despite living in a country with the Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world!) to name just one high point for any nature lover, Edson can’t help talking about Zambia without mentioning the people: “The smiles themselves welcome you here.. when you come to Zambia, you’ve come to a friendly country… the nature, the people, everything is beautiful!”