With the coaching, the festival and a great final night in Kigali well behind us it was time for the long journey home. The team were asked to come up with one word that summed up their time in Rwanda. The usual clutch of superlatives – amazing, fantastic, awesome, inspiring were trotted out but the one all of us came up with was HUMBLING; despite the relatively recent troubles, a great place with great people.
Never again will we say in UK that we can’t play cricket because of the conditions. In spite of the challenging conditions, the kids were energetic, enthusiastic, keen to learn the game and take on board the ABC messages. All of the schools we visited wanted us to go back and leave them kit so that they could continue to include cricket in their school sports programmes. Especially moving days were the visit to Pefa Orphanage and coaching disability cricket at Gatagara where despite all the hardships thrown at the kids, the ability to participate in sport provided huge enjoyment and a the promise of something new – we trained coaches for both locations so the kids can continue to enjoy the game.
A huge thanks must go to Derek and his team of Rwandan coaches who accompanied us throughout the trip. Aside from helping with the language barrier, they all proved to be outstanding role models for the kids we coached and happy to engage in banter on the long bus journeys!
On reflection, as a team we think, a job well done. Just over 1100 kids introduced to cricket, some new talent spotted for the RCA and 23 coaches trained. The memories and friendships forged will last a lifetime and perhaps, we’ll all return one day, either as part of a CWB project or when Rwanda play their first test match!
The final day saw us put on a schools cricket festival at the national cricket ground in Kigali. As grand as this may sound, play took place on a wide expanse of dirt and grass, which was actually a great area for a cricket festival. 84 children turned up, aged between 9 and 16; they were grouped into juniors (9-12) and seniors (13-16) and 4 teams of 10 or 11 in each group.
As soon as play began it became apparent that despite not having been in cricket teams before, loyalty and a desire to win was embued in all the children. Runs were cheered, boundaries exalted and wickets celebrated with vigour – run outs in particular generated volume and animated expressions whichever way the umpire’s decision went. In one match a loss actually resulted in tears such was the passion and the will to win!
After some 12 games of cricket the winners were decided and we presented prizes to the best batters and bowlers in both the senior and junior sections before announcing the winning teams. We also presented a bag of cricket kit to Kicukiro School, which was gratefully received, resulting in big cheers and further celebrations. It was a great way to round off the trip; a hugely enjoyable competition for all involved and one which none of us will forget.
Today was the last coaching session we would have before we leave on Saturday as tomorrow is the cricket festival.
The day started with the coach education program at the Rwanda cricket ground, seeing eleven adults being coached to an introductory ICC qualification. Some were members of the RCA and others from different schools and universities around Rwanda. While Paul and Martin did the Coach Ed Brian, Jono and Ian visited some local shops in Kigali to get some equipment for our cricket festival.
This afternoon we managed to rearrange one of the schools due to the rain last week, and so we travelled to Apade School. We had planned to do some introductory soft ball cricket and then move onto their cricket team for hard ball cricket training. The first session went well doing the usual batting (front foot drive), bowling and fielding (catching) carousel with around 25 students being coached. After this 40 minute session and with Paul and Martin arriving after their lunch break we were expecting the school cricket team to arrive but this is Africa and they didn’t. This meant that it was an early finish for the team and to get some rest before tomorrow’s festival.
Tonight we are taking some of the RCA members and coaches out for dinner to the local Chinese that we found the first week we were here. This will be a good chance to chat about the last couple of weeks.
Another early start and long trek in the bus was the order of the day as the team headed to the southern province of Rwanda and Butare. A few nerves were felt as we embarked on a day in which our relative inexperience in disability cricket had been talked through the night before. We arrived at the Deaf School in Butare to be greeted by 35 kids, keen to get on with the cricket. We set up, divided the kids into groups and got going – catching drills, ground fielding, batting drills and to wrap up, a number of games. The session illustrated the value of good demonstrations and with that anyone can get on and enjoy cricket. The kids were amazing – undaunted by the challenge that 7 ‘muzungi’ presented them and thoroughly enjoyed the morning. We handed over a number of the CWB T-shirts, boxes of pencils and some kwik cricket kit, all of which was received enthusiastically.
After a short lunch break we moved onto Gatagara High School, which, whilst a main stream secondary school, had a number of kids with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. Here again, the numbers we were expecting proved to be variable and we ended up with about 70 new cricketers aged 14 – 18. This was tackled with a 4-station carousel – batting (pull shot), bowling, catching and ground fielding with the afternoon ending with a series of games. If the noise was an indicator of the level of enjoyment then the session was a resounding success; able-bodied or not, everyone seemed to have a great time and we had an impassioned plea for kit before we left.
Another great day! Any nerves about delivering coaching to disabled cricketers were quickly dispelled. The interest and enthusiasm of the young Rwandan cricketers we met in Butare will be long remembered.
Day ten saw us going to an orphanage and then to Derrick’s old school in the afternoon.
When we arrived at the Pefa orphanage the challenges of getting started on time in the mornings continued, as the older children we should have been coaching were at the primary school up the road. We unloaded the mini bus as the plan and our flexibility was tested again. This was our first visit to Pefa and we didn’t really know what to expect. We walked down a steep dirt hill with all of our kit – two young children came and hugged a couple of us which made us think a little more of what we were about to see. Whilst we waited for the school children to return we entertained the young residents: tennis balls seem to mean a lot in Africa, so we got a few out and played some catching games. An instant bond was formed between the team and the youngsters who loved playing with any form of ball – as the photos will show.
Once the older ones arrived ‘real cricket’ coaching could take place. Some of the team were shown around the orphanage to see how the kids lived. We used the video camera in order to capture the experience – which will be uploaded to the blog once we get back to the UK. Needless to say, the experience was a humbling one, again causing us all to reflect on how we all live in the UK and despite having very little, how cheerful and hard working the kids were.
Out on the practice area we ran through a series of catching drills, ground fielding exercises, batting drills and some batting games. A really thought provoking morning for all of us. We left Pefa having distributed some of the CWB t-shirts and signed up two of the volunteers for the coached education session on Thursday.
In the afternoon, we moved on to Lycee de Kigali where we were due to coach between 30 and 40 beginners followed by the school team. In the event, the kids just kept coming! It was good that we had a large grassed-ish football pitch to play on as 70 kids turned up. Flexible as ever, we ran a 5-station carousel comprising catching, batting (pull shot & front foot drive) bowling and ground fielding. Once we got going it all worked really well and the session for the beginners ended with a variety of games. For the final hour the school team (squad of 28) turned up. Here we planned 3 stations – all hard ball batting, bowling (on a flicx pitch) and catching. Unfortunately, half way through the session, the heavens opened and didn’t close! Very wet, the students dashed for the buildings, we dashed for the bus and, for the first time on this trip, RAIN STOPPED PLAY!
Today is our day off from coaching, which meant we could have a lie-in for a change. We planned to take a trip to the local golf course and then we would go gift shopping to a craft centre just outside of Kigali.
We are back to coaching tomorrow going to the Pefa orphanage and then Ceaser and Derrick’s old school in the afternoon, which should be an experience as they keep saying.
Day eight was yet another long drive to Rukara University which situated south east of Kigali. Once we arrived at the university we were told that it is to train young teachers in Rwanda. If we get it right here then surely CWB’s job would become easier in the up and coming years.
The coaching session started well, with us all arriving early to set up and the students ready and waiting. As everything was going to plan we thought we were in a different country, as so far things were going smoothly. We split the group up into two group’s one hard ball (experienced players) and the other, soft ball (beginners). The sessions all went well and we couldn’t believe what was happening.
At lunch we headed to a local shop to get a fruit flavoured drink and I treated myself to some chocolate which soon disappeared. Whilst we sat outside of the shop in shade, we began to get a bit of an audience with people passing on bikes waving and looking at what we were doing still riding forward just missing passersby.
After lunch we were to play our second tour match, and in the search of a new captain after the resignation of Ben. We all looked around if anyone would volunteer but just like in the club no one did. So with four years experience of captaincy I said I would do it.
We won the toss which was one up from yesterday and we decided to bat first, not wanting to field in the heat. A great opening partnership got us off to a great start with Ben and Brian both not getting out and putting on 40 runs off 4 overs. I brought them in to put the next two into bat. The run rate slowed down and so the batsmen where asked to kindly speed it up. Next ball Fred was bowled, so I went out with hit out mode, that doesn’t normally work but did this occasion. We finished on 81 for 7 after the 10 overs were up. After Ian’s star performance yesterday we opened up with him and Ben which got them down to 30-2 off four. With a tense last couple of overs with the help of wides and no balls from OUR umpire didn’t help matters. But needing 13 off the last over all we had to do was stop the boundary. We won in the end by 12 runs.
Today was a productive day all round from a coaching and playing part but also raising awareness of AIDS and HIV within the local community, due to the fact of a lot of spectators. Tomorrow is our day off and a trip to see the city better is planned and get a bit of shopping done too.
Saturday dawned early for the CWB team with an anti-social start in preparation for the 3 hour drive to Ruhengeri and ISEA Busogo (an Agricultural College). The initial challenge was negotiating the mountain roads with hairpin bends and over-loaded trucks! However, arriving safely, we found the best facilities yet for a day of cricket coaching – a full-size grass football pitch and welcoming students.
The team swung into action – splitting into two groups (1) hard ball coaching with the college team and (2) a session coaching students new to cricket. The college team went through a number of challenging fielding, bowling and batting drills, with this being the first opportunity to do some coaching with developing players – in preparation for a game later in the day. Of note was their ability in the field with few catches dropped, hard balls whizzing in at stump height to a wicket keeper and really good team work.
The afternoon session saw CWB challenged to a limited (10) overs game by ISAE. Who would have thought we would be playing cricket, outdoors, on grass, in March! The student’s passion for the game that had been evident in the morning, was overflowing by the time PLAY was called for the first delivery. CWB batted first and achieved a paltry 62 (all out) after failing to bat for their full 10 overs; Ceasar, one of the local CWB coaches top scored with 23 and Ben had an animated discussion with the umpire on his way off the pitch having been dismissed LBW for 1. In reply ISAE set about their task in earnest and reach the target with 2 overs to spare – Jono going for 14 in one over! So the first CWB tour match going the way of the home side.
A good day’s cricket had by all. A great venue set in the foothills of Volcano National Park and some really passionate Rwandan cricketers. Key to developing the ISAE capability is the provision of more kit, something their captain impressed on us at the close. As a small ‘stop-gap’ some hard ball kit was handed over, in lieu of some more become available in the near future, either through the RCA or CWB.
Surprisingly Day Six almost went to plan, well almost! After the balmy weather of the day before we were once again greeted by clear skies which put a spring into our step as some of us have been struggling with the early mornings especially the university student in the group!
It felt like Groundhog Day when we arrived at Kicukiro School as we were provided with the dusty, orange pieces of ground that we have become acclimatised to over the last week however this school was covered piles of rubble and dirt which we tried to avoid in our coaching sessions! We then started our sessions with an ever growing crowd of primary school children who were on their break time and for the first time; the school even provided security to keep back the masses so we could coach the chosen few. Adaption is the name of the game as we have discovered and today was no different with the different drills trying to fit into the facilities that we had been given. Today we even experimented with some diamond cricket which caused both confusion and enjoyment in equal measure.
After a break in the middle of the day we went to Enfotec school and were expecting to run a session for beginners which would last an hour and then a second session for the school team straight after but as you may have learnt by now, it not work out like that. We were given both sets of children at the same time on probably the worst ground we have played on, the grass on the pitch did not make up for the amount of holes and bricks on the playing surface. As ever, we blagged the session while using both real cricket balls and the ever reliable tennis balls. The school team did benefit from using hard balls in catching drills and loved the game at the end with the ball ending up over the fence or up the tree!
Tomorrow we are heading off to the University which is a three hour drive so we are leaving at 7.00am. ON A SATURDAY!!!!!! The things that we do for cricket (the students words).
Day Five started better than yesterday until we arrived at GreenHills academy school. As a comparison this was Oxbridge to your run of the mill Comprehensive. We got out of the cramped bus to wait at the gate while one of the guards went to find the sports teacher, to return to say he wasn’t expecting us. When we finally managed to enter the school after a quick bag search (the Presidents sons attend the school) they said we could do the next lesson of an hour.
We started the session on the sports field and within 15 minutes through it decided to rain, and when it rains in Rwanda it RAINS as we found out. We where then moved inside to the new sports hall and told to wait until this lesson finishes. So roughly two hours after arriving, we managed to start coaching. With all the problems that had happened that morning a light seemed to shine when Martin and Graham had been speaking to the headmaster after a trip from the toilet. Who asked us to have dinner with them at the school.
After lunch (spaghetti, veg and meat ball (singular) we continued to coach using the well versed carousel which ensures full participation and quick fire sessions – no room for boredom but we were constantly fighting the Basketball court but feel happy we fought our corner. Added value with the HIV/Aids awareness message throughout the day. By the time we had finished the sun was out. GreenHills were happy that the day gave them what they wanted and all kept dry. Unfortunately due to the rain we were unable to get to Apade school which we will reschedule for next week.
An earlier than normal finish gave time for a relaxing drink and a nose round the next door hotel.
Noticeable that teenagers the world over are no different – attitude, confident, then not and a swagger that belies their youth. All in all GreenHills is a world apart in a Rwanda context.