On the last day of coaching in Kenya, team tutor Luke reflects on the impact the team has had in combining top-class cricket coaching with promoting powerful HIV/AIDS awareness messages.
Our coaching in Kenya came to an end with a festival featuring 11 different teams – the first ever held in the area.
The standard of cricket was mixed but their exposure to the game and the smile on their faces was a joy to behold.
The event also perfectly highlighted CWB’s mission to raise HIV/AIDS awareness through cricket with three voluntary HIV/AIDS testing tents pitched around the ground – a first for the charity.
Seeing groups of schoolchildren lining up to get themselves tested was an incredibly powerful image and one that brought the reality of their situation home to all of us. This was emphasised by seeing the entire squad from St Francis Secondary School for Girls preparing to get tested at the same time.
Lee and I were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview one of the nurses, Georgina Otieno, about the prevalence of the disease in the area and the challenges faced in raising awareness and persuading people to get themselves tested.
Over the course of the day more than 100 people were tested and she said this was far more than on a normal day. Although she was previously unaware of CWB’s work she attributed the raised number of tests down to the camaraderie promoted by cricket and the fact that it was being done in an open environment.
Georgina spoke very movingly about issues that make tackling the disease in this area. Watch this short clip when she talks about CWB's impact.
In the North Laikipia district polygamy, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and underage sex are a deeply ingrained part of the culture. Girls as young as 13 are regularly married off to elderly men who have a number of other wives and subjected to truly unthinkable abuse including female circumcision (in completely unsanitary conditions) and rape. The fact that this is viewed by older members of the community as a perfectly accepted practice puts the girls in a virtually impossible situation and feeling unable to cry for help. In many places HIV/AIDS is also seen as a curse rather than an illness which means that an incredible amount of stigma is attached to it. In these areas, people often refuse to get tested or react angrily or disbelievingly to a positive test.
At the end of the day we were also treated to a series of plays, poems and songs from the schools based on the key HIV/AIDS awareness messages.
Seeing how comfortable they appeared enacting the messages and sharing them with their peers left me feeling optimistic that they are getting through and that by educating the young people the message may get through to their parents and elders.
The day felt like a real completion of our journey and the entire team should feel incredibly proud of their contributions over the last two weeks. It may be too strong to say we have changed lives but there is absolutely no doubt that the team have given thousands of children an amazing experience they will never forget, contributed to making cricket more sustainable here and done an incredible job in highlighting HIV/AIDS awareness.
It has been a real privilege to share in the experience with them and as team tutor I just want to finish by saying a well-deserved thank you to all of them for their efforts and inspiration over the last two weeks.