With project leader Thom and new Trustee Tracey otherwise engaged with meetings with the Rwandan Cricket Association and other local organisations the rest of the team headed off to our first school, GS Ntarama. We had local coaches Joseph, Jackson and Eric Ndanga aka ‘Danger’ with us so Joseph, Jackson, Ella, Danny and Jack got out to coach while the rest of us went off to nearby GS Kibungu.
A school of over 2,000 nursery, primary and secondary pupils, we started with the primary school kids. Sam introduced things with some translation help from Danger and we got under way with relays. That was followed by 3 stations for batting, bowling and catching, all the while repeating the ABCT messaging while Sam kept us to some strict timings. Strict because soon the secondary kids arrived…
After a brief false start when the teacher was only going to allow the children with their sports kit on to play – and having put that right – we got underway with the messaging, relays and then games of rapid fire. Soon there was quite a crowd and the watching pupils cheered their friends on while at the same time taking evasive action when balls were hit at them. The shouts of “get back or you’ll get hit by the ball” seemed to fall on deaf ears as always but I think the tennis balls came off worse than the kids.
Having picked up the others from Ntarama we went to the nearby Genocide Memorial at Ntarama Church. 5,000 men, women and – most heart wrenchingly – children were killed there in 1994 as they sought refuge during the Genicide. We were shown around each room by a guide who explained in very graphic detail where the mothers and children were hiding and how they were killed. I ruined someone’s day by telling them the details so I won’t make the same mistake here, but gruesome is an understatement.
As you go around you see photos of those that died, hand written messages to those that died from survivers, and the stains of blood on the walls. I wish I’d taken some tissues with me. We stopped at the memorial itself opposite the flame of hope and took a minute to remember the dead. That Rwanda has moved on so far in 25 years is remarkable and I hope that, in it’s own small way, cricket is helping with social cohesion.
After grabbing food and water for lunch we moved on to schools ESK & Ntarama Catholique. Again we left Ella, Danny, Jack and Joseph at one and the rest us went to the other. Once again we were treated to incredible panoramic views and played rapid fire with the secondary school kids. We managed to get lots of board work done and get the kids filling in quizzes to test their knowledge around HIV so it was very valuable. With the help of the local coaches we were also able to help the kids to know where to go for an HIV test as our session had inspired them to go – in part, mission accomplished!
Back we went to pick up the others who had the traditional African scenario of the stench of the kid’s toilets drifting across the playing area. The kids were having fun and I saw Joseph making some real progress with a group of bowlers.
We headed off and added an unscheduled stop at a school for the disabled. We were welcomed in by the nuns who run it and we also met Chantelle who proudly wore her CWB sunhat, left with her by CWB volunteer Mark Campbell a year ago. I had the pleasure of sending Mark the photographic proof!
It’s fair to say that we all took a few minutes to find our feet, as knowing the capabilities of each child was hard and it was often very limited. In many cases knocking the ball off a cone or throwing the ball half a metre was a huge success and bought about the most amazing smiles from both the children and the CWB team. Meanwhile Sam was getting pelted by a girl who was on crutches but her arm worked fine and she insisted on throwing at him from close range! It was suggested that she had the better arm of the two of them! With darkness closing in we bid farewell to all the children and staff and left them a little kit. With the help of Jackson translating I was able to tell one of the nuns how thankful we were for them letting us play with the kids without advance notice. She said they will always welcome us as the children get so much from stimulation and engagement when CWB visit. It bought a tear to the eye for the second time in the day.
Tomorrow brings an orphanage and visiting the Kigali Genocide Museum so this time I intend to remember to take tissues!