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International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

fgm2In February 2015 I met Nashipai. A beautiful 14 year old Kenyan girl. Shy and humble she took my hand and with great pride showed me her home. Nestled in the corner was a cot and in it a five month old child. At the age of 12 Nashipai was cut; her genitals removed in a rite of passage which would see her become a woman in the eyes of her community. By 13 she was married to an abusive older man in his 50’s; no longer attending school; this was now her life. Whilst she was pregnant she was beaten so badly she feared for her life and that of her unborn child. Summoning every ounce of courage she possessed she fled to a rescue centre and began the process of rebuilding her life and raising her daughter.

Nashipai’s story is not unusual. Worldwide an estimated 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of FGM and 3 million are at risk each year.

In Kenya the latest data shows that nationally around 27% of girls and women aged between 15-49 have had FGM (2008). This has reduced from 37% in 1998. There are significant variations within the country and some ethnic groups have very high rates of practice, whilst others do not carry out the procedure at all. Amongst the Maasai, FGM is still widely practiced and the prevalence is at 73%.

In February 2015 I also met Nancy. Also 14 her life was vastly different to that of Nashipais’. Nancy was the first woman in her family to not undergo FGM.
With the help and support of her family she did not face the barbaric procedure and is now enjoying gaining an education and thriving in school, and dreams of becoming a Doctor.

fgm1Last year following a year of planning and joining up with 28 Too Many, and the Maasai Cricket Warriors I was part of the team which delivered the first ever CWB anti-FGM project. We thought this project was a pilot, and today we are delighted to announce that CWB is firmly committed reach many more people and use the medium of Cricket to educate on and eradicate this abusive practice.

As FGM Programme Lead I am excited about the next few months as we launch a new programme of work both in Kenya and in the UK. In June we will travel once again to Kenya, working in partnership with the Massaii Warriors and 28 Too Many, we aim to deliver our cricket programme to 2000 young people and adults.

In addition to this CWB will launch a pilot UK programme. Adopting a multi-agency approach, CWB plans to engage girls in communities affected by FGM , teach them cricket skills and work to eradicate this practice. Current figures suggest that over 60,000 girls in the UK aged 10-14 were born to mothers who had undergone FGM. Furthermore there are approximately 130,000 women living in Britain who have undergone FGM.

Today sees us Celebrate International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Spare a thought today for Nashipai and Nancy and the millions of other young women who are at risk of this abusive practice and show your solidarity by supporting CWB.

For more information on our FGM work please contact Hannah@cricketwithoutboundaries.com

To make a donation to our FGM work please visit: https://cricketwithoutboundaries.charitycheckout.co.uk/endfgm

Hannah Weaver
FGM Programme Lead

This Girl Can – Jules’ story

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If you speak to people in this country about their experiences of playing sport when they were younger, you come across a division. There are those who recall horror stories of being made to do cross country running on cold, wet Wednesday afternoons by sadistic coaches, bellowing at them to ‘keep moving’ as they hunker down under a large umbrella and lots of thermal clothing. Then you encounter the enthusiastic sporty types who played lots of different sports for their county and were wonderfully supported by their coaches. What about those who do not fit into either of those categories?

When I recall ‘undertaking’ sport at school, I remember laying out a multitude of coloured Asthma inhalers on a table, which twenty five years ago were little coaster size boxes,  which when lined up on a white table looked like an artistic impression of a Dulux colour chart. Coaches saw a child running around who would stop, gasp for air, and amble slowly over to the table to get an inhaler, miss the rest of the session recovering and then ask what was the matter?  Few coaches understood that it was not mind preventing you from taking part in sport, it was the lungs. Eventually being made, by the coach, to take the positions in team sports that involved the least running around to make up the numbers, just made playing sport boring and uninspiring.

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Thing is I grew up in a sports loving household. It tests not only your physicality but also your mind. It drives and encourages the extremes of human emotion. Most of all it looks like great fun to be actively involved in. In reality, it appeared to be an exclusive fun for those who were good at it. It was not until my mid twenties, that going to the gym appeared to be a good idea and there were no boundaries set for what I could do. It made me fitter and improved my asthma.

It was by chance that I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to be properly involved in a team sport, following an impromptu call to take part in a game of cricket with a group of young lads in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. They did not care about health or ability of their team. All they wanted to do was to play and have people to play with. We celebrated wickets together, counted runs loudly when batting and gave each-other encouragement in the field. It was nice to be finally included in a team sport. These lads, I found out afterwards, were the main breadwinners for their family after their father and older brothers had either disappeared or died during the civil war. None of them were older than twenty. They all played cricket together one afternoon a week to have fun and enjoy themselves. It was an honour to play alongside them.

Not long after this, I saw the advert for Cricket Without Boundaries, seeking volunteers to coach cricket in various African countries, where they would use sports coaching to help make children aware of how to protect themselves against HIV. Now I was a.) Not a coach, b.) Couldn’t play cricket c.) Had limited knowledge of HIV.  However, that experience in Jaffna, led me to apply and I was offered a place to be part of a volunteer coaching team out to Rwanda.

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Seeing the slight flaw in this plan, I joined a ladies cricket team who had two fantastic lead female coaches who were not in the least bit fazed by someone’s health, fitness or ability – they just wanted people to be involved. This spirit has been mirrored by fellow volunteers who I have coached cricket with, as part of various Cricket Without Boundaries projects to Rwanda, Kenya and Cameroon. I have since qualified as a cricket coach so that I can share with children, in this country and abroad, just how great it is to take part in physical activity and most importantly of all that sport is available for everybody – as long as they have the chance.

The Magic of Africa – by Liam Burnell

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It may sound cliché, but getting involved with CWB changed my life. From the people I have met, to the experiences I have been graced with, they have shaped my outlook on life, my cricket coaching, and forged friendships for life.

I first got involved with CWB back in 2013 – a naïve 18 year old, looking for a life changing experience. How was I going to do this? Well, I thought coaching cricket in Africa may be a good start, and after a quick google, my CWB journey began. So, where would this journey take me? First stop Rwanda, and after reassuring many people (including my mum) that this was now a safe country, despite its still recent history, I left the UK in a trip that would change my life.

Since that moment, I’ve experienced 3 very different cultures, despite all being blessed with the hot, sweaty (and very dusty) climates that Africa offers:

Rwanda: My first experience of Africa was one to remember, and I loved every minute! The people in Rwanda were incredible, and the coaching experiences changed my style of coaching for the better. The enthusiasm you are greeted with each session is refreshing, and the fact a ‘Muzungu’ is present seems to bring cheer to everyone! I found out how beautiful Rwanda was as a country,  learned a lot about African timing, and also found my long lost Yorkshire dad. I was hooked, and I wouldn’t be away for long…

Cameroon: Only 6 months after departing from Rwanda, I found myself back on an aeroplane to the country made famous by Roger Milla’s magic hips. My French phrase book was dusted off, and bought back memories of cold winter mornings sat in a French class, although ‘il fait chaud’ was now much more applicable! Cameroon was something else. The country conveyed a ceremonial feeling, particularly when we were invited to the foreign ministers commonwealth gala (in which we danced him out the room), and played the Cameroon national side (after standing in line for their national anthem!). From ABCs on the beaches of Beau, to the side of a handball court meeting Roger Milla, Cameroon was something else. However, one thing didn’t change – the kids enthusiasm to learn, compete in sports and learn how to better themselves in terms of health education. We even got a nun playing at Roger Milla’s orphanage, a photo which has since gone viral!

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Botswana: A year down the line from Cameroon, I was back again, this time in the southern part of the continent. This trip was very different for me, with big numbers less common, however the importance of HIV/AIDS messaging was clear, with the prevalence rate in Botswana well above those of Cameroon and Rwanda (around 25%). This time, in charge of HIV/AIDS monitoring, I had the focus to get particular messages across, a task which was well supported by the rest of my team. We even got the chance to play under lights! Botswana was one country I saw so much potential in, and is one place I am desperate to return to!

From these three very different experience, I have grown as an individual. I look back from time to time and reminisce about these amazing opportunities and the friendships I’ve made.

I feel as though a part of me has a connection with each country I have visited, and I like to think a part of me has made its impact on the lives of those children I had the chance to work with.

Liam

My CWB experience has changed me, my outlook on life, the way I coach, the friendships I have and my knowledge of issues facing those within the African continent. Many view Africa as a massive dust bowl, to me, I see it as a magical place, full of the sound of running feet, thousands of beaming smiles and a surprise around every corner. For this, I have CWB to thank.

Until next time, Liam (aka. Chesney/Biebs/1D)

Why I volunteer for CWB – Thom Manning

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Why do I volunteer for CWB? It’s a difficult question to answer in a sentence or a paragraph. It’s also a difficult question to answer without giving the impression that you are a selfless martyr on a mission to solve world poverty, end all wars and stamp out HIV/AIDS on the way to your Nobel Prize!

Having completed two ‘Tours of Duty’ to Cameroon in Spring 2014 and 2015 there are four areas of impact and memories that a CWB trip leaves with me.

The schoolchildren, the out of school children, the adults and new friends.

The basis of every trip is the school coaching sessions. Often relentless, nearly always late to start and always enjoyably challenging. The welcome, the engagement and the development of the children from introducing a fun new sport to a week ending festival is a roller coaster of bowling actions, wicket protection, safe-hands catching, bus rides, food stops and local curiosity. It can be especially challenging and fun when like me you have ‘nO’ level French!

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Outside of the school session though volunteers can also engage in the CWB way through planned, or hastily organised orphanage visits, where the best gift is large bag of rice, to ‘street’ kids up for a game of catch where it’s wise to have a few spare wristbands. It’s in these environments when you really appreciate how much we have and how little our own children want for. The simple pleasure that playing with a tennis ball can bring has to be seen to be enjoyed, as do the African victory dances.

Coach education is a great session to develop the skills and knowledge of local teachers whilst offering the rookies old hands alike the opportunity to lead training stations as a ‘dry run’ for the teenage hordes that follow. When you see the enthusiasm with which some teachers approach the session you then understand the enthusiasm that you experience through the week.

Not to be underestimated also are the local coaches and cricket officials who help you through the trip. Away from the coaching you spend a lot of time on buses, milling around and generally chatting, asking them of their culture and they of yours. They can be your eyes and ears and keep you away from places you really shouldn’t be and taking you places you probably shouldn’t be!

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In two trips I’ve been lucky enough to experience Africa with 11 others across a wide range of backgrounds, from students to the retired, from ages 18 to 60-something and we remain in touch one way or another. On top of this bunch there are others you meet as part of the CWB experience, other volunteers at training weekends and those running the charity. In my case I’ve also been adopted by a local school to present each year to their Year 8’s on the impact of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, and to their 6th Form on volunteering.

So what can you achieve in two weeks? You’re not going to solve world poverty or earn yourself a Nobel Prize but, in no particular order, you are likely to smile every day, a lot. You’ll laugh, coach, demonstrate, laugh some more, learn a lot about your inventiveness, laugh and learn that your limits are higher than you thought. And you might just affect one persons life for the better, and they yours.

Thom Manning

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Testing Times in Uganda

testingI have recently returned from CWB’s Autumn 2015 Project in Northern Uganda, and area where both people and infrastructure have been devastated by recent wars, in particular by the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The LRA infamously abducted thousands of children in this region and trained boys as merciless killers and took girls as sex slaves. The area is now returning to relative normality, but the scars remain all too apparent. We encountered 16 yr old school children, often returnees from S. Sudan, whose eyes were expressionless: deep voids, lacking the ability to engage, cold. Emotionally eviscerated by what they had experienced. And obviously at risk in terms of HIV/AIDs.

testing2In 2012 CWB undertook a pioneering project in schools across the war torn area; establishing links where cricket was largely unknown, and in a context where schools and local infrastructure, including healthcare were struggling against the odds to be re-built. But the effects of this early intervention by CWB were apparent when we went to Arua, Gulu and Lira this Autumn. Teachers, often proudly wearing old CWB tee-shirts, gave us a warm welcome back. Cricket equipment left by CWB was still in evidence, and there was reasonable familiarity with the ABCT mantra. We were able to build on these foundations, and over the two weeks coached almost 4,000 children and trained 80 teachers. We also tested 380 children for presence of the HIV virus at ‘Testing Days’ across the three locations.

Ensuring adequate testing resources at every location we regarded as a critical priority in order to be able us to give full, practical, expression to our HIV/AIDS awareness messaging. In past projects it had not always proved possible to engage local organizations in the provision of comprehensive testing. We had endeavored in advance to make email contact with agencies potentially able to provide testing, but we got either no, or unsatisfactory, replies. Fortunately, our contact at the Uganda Cricket Association, Grace, who has responsibility for the Northern Districts, was able to come up with some possible contacts at two of the three locations. On arrival at Arua we immediately went to the local hospital and made contact with the HIV/AIDS Unit, which principally offers palliative care, but which also had some limited outreach/testing capacity. The Head of the Unit engaged with our objectives, and together we sought out the hospital’s Principal Administrator who had the sole authority to commit resources to outreach testing. He was, in principle, supportive, but it took some detailed negotiations, and rigorous adherence to management protocols and conventions, before he agreed to a team of five (two nurses, 2 counselors and one technician) attending our Testing Day. In the event the team tested 150 children, with compassion and breath-taking efficiency. Long queues of boys and girls, together, were rapidly processed. Three tested positive; they were given immediate counseling and commitment to long term psychological support following treatment with ARV’s at the hospital clinic, which commenced the following day.

testing3On interviewing the nurses and counselors at the end of the day we learnt, to our surprise, that an 11 year old boy who had tested positive, had proclaimed himself ‘happy’ at his diagnosis. For him, it explained his worrying symptoms of nasal bleeding, fever and convulsions; the promise of immediate treatment had given him hope. A returnee from S.Sudan, with his S. Sudanese parents now off the scene, the boy was cared for by his grandmother. The active involvement of his schoolteacher in conjunction with a counsellor and hospital treatment are not just life changing for him, but potentially life saving. The team left Arua with a spring in their step.

In Gulu, we worked with TASO, a national NGO, in the of testing. Amongst those tested was a group of street children who we actively involved in the Testing Day, together with masses of children from local schools, as a result of a chance connection made with a charity operating in Gulu, called ‘Surface Uganda’. We managed to enlist the help of a volunteer at Surface Uganda in supporting one of the street children who tested positive. She agreed to act in in loco parentis to the 14 year old (who was sexually active) and ensure that he attended the local clinic to receive ARV’s and appropriate counseling.

testing4Finally in Lira we worked with the local Regional Hospital which provided a five strong testing team, following making immediate contact on arrival in the town and, as in Arua, protracted negotiations with the hospital’s administrators and instant production of required paperwork. The team managed to test a further 170 children. The two children testing positive were followed up, again with the active participation of their teachers who were on the spot at the Testing Day.

Having a highly visible testing post, used by throngs of children, puts the T in ABCT. It is part of one big event that children will remember. By getting tested children not only learn their status, they are proud of having done it: together, boys and girls, as a team. Having been tested once they are more likely to seek repeat testing; and in between be aware of how to protect themselves, via ABC, and stay negative. And CWB now has established a strong partnership with agencies that can provide testing in the future.

Steve Wells
HIV Lead, Uganda
November 2015.

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