Laura reflects on her first CWB project, an amazing two weeks spent in Africa.
After a cold beer in the hotel in Arua, my excitement levels were running high. I could tell from the faces of the other Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB) volunteers that they were feeling the same. The beer was well deserved as the journey didn’t get off to a great start. Two hours in to a ten hour bus ride to our hotel a police officer confiscated our license plates and sent us off to a garage over the road to fix a wheel alignment issue. While waiting we were approached by market sellers offering a range of produce; from straw hats to mangoes… definitely an introduction to Africa!
We were keen to get going on day one and work with some local teachers and once they arrived, their enthusiasm made up for their timekeeping. Arua, Gulu and Lira were full of teachers keen to learn about coaching their students and bursting with children willing to run around in the thirty five degree heat after cricket balls with smiles on their faces. They weren’t so keen on continuing in the few showers we saw though – particularly not the downpour that saw our kit bags floating away!
It took a couple of days before the new volunteers, myself included, felt comfortable expressing the HIV/AIDS messages that the charity promote through the game of cricket. Shouting ‘Condoms’ at the top of your voice to a field full of children is an interesting experience to say the least! By the end of the trip, we were all singing the messages along with hundreds of children with no problems at all!
The bus journeys between the towns allowed for some brief enjoyment of the greenery between vicious speed bumps. Sign spotting became a small hobby – one of the favourites being ‘Modest level of hospitality’ in a hotel entrance. It can’t have been our hotels as we were treated to very high levels of hospitality in each town – a few frogs, lizards and power cuts aside.
Every so often there was a moment that just made you step back and realise where you were and what you were doing. Some were ridiculous, like wandering down a street with a few long horned cows beside you, or seeing a market seller with avocados on head and baby on back take a perfect catch or even asking ‘Beckham’ to swap with ‘Desmond Tutu’ in a match. But the most powerful moment was hearing a teacher make an emotional speech about the impact that the charity are having in an area still rebuilding after the devastation caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
So what does twelve days and seven hundred and fifty miles of bus travel mean? One thousand seven hundred children ‘officially’ coached and countless more involved in catching games. Fifty two teachers leaving with the equipment and skills to deliver the vital HIV/AIDS awareness messages through the game of cricket. It also means seven volunteers, now friends, who cannot wait to jump back into another CWB project.