Reflections from a returning volunteer

If this were the closing scenes from a movie, I would be the last person to leave the bus and there would be a montage of images from the last two weeks – teams of schoolchildren laughing as they throw tennis balls between them, nervous questioning on the details of HIV transmission, a hoard of children teaching the CWB volunteers to dance. It would be soundtracked by everything from Bruce Springsteen to Kenyan dance music to Dolly Parton as per our bus DJs Nick, Nico and Driver Dave, and it would pick up at the end with the knowledge that over 7500 children have benefited from our visit and it actually might change their lives.

It’s difficult to find downtime on a project, but a 12 hour journey home provided a perfect backdrop to let some more thoughts fall into place. Having been on a previous project trip to Uganda, it was natural to make some comparisons. Was I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as the first time? Yes. Was I worried that going to a different country wouldn’t be as good? Yes. Did any of these worries materialise? No.

Right from the training weekend, I felt excited about the project ahead. The team bonded over a shared sense of humour and a can-do attitude. Those who knew cricket stepped in to help those who didn’t, the more confident encouraged those who were less sure, and everyone ended the weekend with smiles on their faces (and emergency packing lists). Being a returning volunteer meant I could play my part in answering questions, reassuring nervousness and making sure everyone got stuck in and felt included.

A week later, we all met up in a hotel in Nairobi for a quick changeover. The early arrivers took the baton to get stuck into coaching whilst the later arrivers had some time to freshen up before joining up on a school playing field. Coaching pairs were made, plans were created and sessions were delivered. All the time supported by Ambassadors Nicholas and Mathias who filled in gaps, organised the flow of the sessions and translated in Swahili where needed.

How did I find myself volunteering again? The first time it was fun – so why wouldn’t I do it again? My evangelism for the cause meant that a friend had volunteered, so why not join her and support them? CWB is run by a great bunch of people and whenever I spend any time with them my enthusiasm for the projects is at least doubled. Their passion is infectious and is there for a reason.

This time I was working closely with the Ambassadors to set the programme and help to manage the team. The role gave me a completely different perspective to how the project develops during the two weeks and all the efforts that are needed to make it run smoothly. It also gave me the chance to meet more of the local coaches who appeared at each of our bases. Their friendship and advice helped me to understand the environment, the people and the realities of daily life in the regions of Kenya where we worked

The other main difference from my first trip was the focus that the team put on the HIV messaging. The CWB team had provided more materials to help us deliver the message, and we also had two healthcare professionals who made conversations, gathered more questions from both teachers and students and somehow found the time to answer most of them too.

Once again I’ve learned things that will help my sports coaching, my career and will fill my experience bank. I’ve made new friends from around the world and I’ve laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe on several occasions.

But best of all, I know the team has made a difference. In the following week since we left Nakuru, numbers at weekend cricket coaching doubled. There were more children taking part in activity than ever before, more children learning about HIV and how to protect themselves. Our visit gives a well-needed energy boost for the coaches who deliver throughout the year and enables discussions with schools to encourage them to take up cricket, giving both boys and girls the life opportunities sport can provide.

As I prepare to return to my daily routine, I will play that montage in my head: hundreds of children, scary conversations, laughter, excitement, dancing and high fives. I’ll remember the detailed explanation of how to use a condom given by a teenage boy, the girl who was determined to play cricket with her friends now that she had tried it, the teachers who get the importance of learning big lessons through sport and the six year olds giving it large in their rapid fire game. Is it my final stop? I have a feeling I’ll be back.

Tanya

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2 Comments

  1. October 9, 2019

    Fantastic reflection Tanya. I am still on Kenya and every day telling a story. 😊

  2. Taruna
    October 10, 2019

    Tanya, this is so inspiring, and I can’t wait for landing in Uganda already!!!

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