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!
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!
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.