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Community was the name of the game at the South Sacramento games on Saturday. Residents played a variety of games, all focused on building cooperation without competition.
We made the games so that nobody’s a winner and nobody’s a loser,” volunteer Charles Chenauot said.
The games included capture the flag, don’t spill the beans and Simon Says, but with a twist. Simon and Simone used the same concept as Simon Says, but without winners or losers. Instead, when Simon told a player she was out, she could join Simone’s game and keep playing.
“We have a lot of community games where people can come together and play without having to be competitive,” volunteer Staphonya Cabrellin said.
The games kicked off a 10-year initiative called Sacramento Building Healthy Communities. Its aim is healthier lives for South Sacramento residents through preventive care, opportunities for children, and addressing the physical, social and economic challenges of the community. South Sacramento ranks as one of the lowest in per capita income of residents in 51 Sacramento County ZIP codes. The area faces issues ranging from unavailability of healthy food to lack of health care to violence.
The games were held at George Sim Park and the community center there, which won’t be open to residents the rest of the year. Budget cuts left Saturday as the only day that the entire park, including the community center and the pool, will be open. Noting the waste of a valuable resource, volunteer Liz Sterba said it’s time to stop relying on the government to fix neighborhood problems and start relying on each other.
“I think that the budget is making it very obvious that we cannot rely on our government to do everything for us, and we shouldn’t,” she said. “We should help each other and we should build each other up and build a strong network of neighbors.”
The games were organized toward that end. After two hours of games in the shade, people were treated to food and entertainment that showcased the area’s diverse cultures. The cuisine ranged from Chinese to Mexican, with a focus on delicious, healthy options.
As the performances went on the crowd thinned, trading the warmth of the community center for the cool of the pool. But the show still went on. Women from the Asian Community Center performed traditional Polynesian dances. The spoken word that concluded the entertainment showcased young poets speaking about their rough upbringing in South Sacramento, including a group of slam poets from Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS), dedicated to helping young writers find their voice and share it with the community.
The youth were involved in planning the day and helped get the word out to neighbors. Many volunteers were teenagers trying to make the best of their summer vacations.
“I didn’t have anything to do this summer,” Chenauot said. “I wanted to do something that was fun and would actually have a positive outcome instead of doing something like staying at home playing video games.”
Cabrellin agreed. “I think it’s very important to get the youth out, recruit more youth to these events and get them active in their community.”
Patrick Kennedy, a member of the Sacramento City School board and chairman of the task force for healthy foods in schools, handed out free green bean seeds for people to grow at home.
“I think if we can get it bigger every year we can start taking this whole healthy atmosphere to our homes, to our neighborhoods, especially South Sacramento, I think the city would be a better place,” he said.
Sterba said she expects more community get-togethers to result from the initiative.
“The plan is to really do a lot of maybe not large-scale events, but smaller-scale events throughout the different neighborhoods represented,” she said. “We really want to bring this larger set of neighborhoods together and create some unity and synergy.”