Week One – Mark’s Thoughts

A quiet Saturday afternoon, brushing off the dust of Gamadobu and saying sad farewells to Tim seems a good time to reflect on the first week of Botswana 2015. As ever the statistics only tell part of the story Рover a thousand children coached, 25  teachers shown the basic techniques of coaching, 4 different schools visited and one highly successful festival completed.

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What the statistics don’t count are the broad smiles on those children, or the thanks given by the teachers who all agree that the CWB approach of combining sports and the ABC message is a way of ensuring children pay attention to such a significant t health promotional message. The statistics don’t show the way that children who shyly whisper Abstinence, Be Faithful, and (most embarrassingly, as it would be at home) Condomise at the beginning of a session grow in confidence so that by the end of an hour or hour and a half session are ¬†chanting all three terms, along with the equally important idea of Testing (to know your status) at top volume. We don’t want anyone to risk their health through being shy or embarrassed!

DSC04103What statistics don’t show is how the team has worked together. Greg has taken a lead in Coach Education, and has been rightly recognised as ‘a cricket expert’ by the Local Press; Liam and Rachel have been busily and sensitively interviewing children and coaches to establish their levels of understanding of the ABCT message, so we can refine how we deliver it; I have nearly lost my voice, warming the children up with introductions and making sure no mention of Abstinence, or Be Faithful or Condomise or Testing was missed by the children; returning volunteer Tim, despite a marathon journey was straight into the action, organising teams and acting as cheer-leader and enthusiasm generator; new volunteer Ross lost no time in getting involved in all the training drills, growing in confidence by the minute so he was able to give my fading voice a rest running introduction and warm up sessions; and HIV lead Sam has wasted no time in chasing up contacts, bursting with ideas as to how to make the message clearer and more relevant every day. More importantly she and Rachel have proved to the children you don’t have to be male and loud to give orders, to run drills and to summarise the messages at the end of every session. This sort of team work, looking out for each other has helped on the hotter days when everyone feels the heat and on the days such as Thursday when we had to change the plans on a number of occasions to take account of changing numbers and shifting school meal times. It’s amazing we finished on time, yet still involved four hundred children.

That’s before you include the Children’s centre at ¬†Gamadobu, which after three visits is going to become a regular feature on every CWB project in Botswana, as people like founder Shelly, who saw a problem and did something about it, need every encouragement. One cannot help but be moved seeing wheelchairs being pushed over rough terrain and along unmade roads which most of us would only consider tackling in a large 4×4, nor by the way in which children converge from all directions to join in the CWB activities before having their only guaranteed meal of the day.

So at the end of week one I am confident we will have an equally interesting and fulfilling week in the North of the country. I am also confident that in the work of the team this week that Nelson Mandela was correct when he spoke of the power of sport…..(Thanks to Greg for reminding us of that quote and using it to inspire all our trainee coaches this week.)

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One Comment
  1. Sounds like a pretty amazing first week, well done everyone. Keep up the hard work and enjoy week 2!

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