After coaching 350 children in a great but hectic morning, this afternoon acted as a reminder of the scale of some of the problems faced by families in this area. It has prompted us to reflect on the work that we have been doing, and how it fits into a society where HIV is far from being the only risk to a child’s well-being.
During this afternoon’s coaching session, Colette got speaking to one of the school teachers in charge of a boisterous but enthusiastic crowd of young boys and girls. At times it was hard to watch as the teachers and older boys occasionally resorted to whipping the children with sticks in order to keep them under control. Whilst this was sad to watch, any attempts at making long-lasting cultural changes in a two hour period would have been hopeless, so we opted to do what we do best and channelled their enthusiasm away from corporal punishment and into a productive afternoon of cricket skills and HIV discussions.
During Colette’s conversation with the teacher, a far more troubling issue became apparent. She learnt that all too often the school hears of girls being picked up on their walks home, to be found hours later by their parents with a few hundred shillings in their pockets. This money, amounting to only a few pounds, is given to the girls by men that have taken their virginities, with pregnancies and HIV often the result. We heard of this happening to girls as young as 12.
After hearing stories like this, it is easy to question the work that we and, in turn, CWB are doing. Of course, it can sound bizarre that we try to improve the lives of children by teaching them cricket in a society where paedophilia, rape and sexism are such immediate dangers. However, as a team of twelve volunteers (six English, six Kenyan) there is only so much we can do, and when we see boys, girls, teachers, and potentially even rape victims, playing cricket together accompanied by laughter, huge smiles and mutual respect, it reminds us of why we are here. Kenya’s most popular sports, running and football, do not allow for the same mix of ages, abilities and strengths that cricket can accommodate. Therefore, by coupling this power of cricket with insightful and in-depth discussions about HIV and AIDS, the work of CWB is worth believing in, even if many issues will always remain out of our control.
– Max and Colette