So we come to Saturday, half way through our trip. The boarding schools we had planned to visit decided they had other things to do (on Friday night some boarding school children had told us how they were really looking forward to a weekend of cleaning their school!), so we were left with a gentle program of one school (Elia Olet) in the morning where we put about 170 children through their batting, fielding bowling and Hokey Cokey paces. (The latter required as the bus carrying the equipment appeared to need a detour of a couple of miles to get to the school playing field- a journey of about 100 scrambling yards on feet).
With no time pressure we were able to have extended discussions with the children about HIV and related matters such as gender equality. The pupils were very good at answering the HIV questions on the Avert cards and writing answers on bats and white boards to questions such as “what can boys and girls do together?” and what are the benefits of cricket?” Personal favourite responses to the former were to care for sick people together and to respect elders together. We all know the many benefits of cricket, but if you need any reminders take a look at the photo of the children’s work. Quite an impact for a morning of batting, bowling and fielding.
As we were not pushed for time we were able to convene a volunteers game of Cross bar challenge. Success is a rare phenomenon, so there was no shortage of amazement when we managed to hit the bar twice. The crowd cheered, even cricket novices recognising the rarity of the event. Modesty prevents me from disclosing the identity of the first successful competitor but I can record that Nick was successful with the perfect Rory Mcllroy impression.
After the mornings excitement a relaxed afternoon gave time for reflection on the first week of this project. The statistics tell only part of the story; over 2000 children coached, 65 awareness quizzes completed, numerous records of HIV knowledge logged, not to mention 40 children tested and many more briefed the benefits of testing by our colleagues from TASO. How about take 10 relative strangers from the UK, add a further couple of strangers from Uganda into the mix, a team united only by their love of the game of cricket and an interest in new adventures and helping children in difficult circumstances. Throw them together in an unfamiliar environment and ask them to simplify a complex health message and introduce excitable little people to a technical game under the vagaries of the Ugandan weather with no predictability at all to the numbers of nor their understanding of either cricket or English if you are looking for a recipe for success I doubt they would be the ingredients but having been on similar projects before I can assure you it works and it has worked again this week.
I am asked occasionally whether it is a bit of a hassle leading such a project. Well there is some responsibility but it’s extraordinarily easy when everybody just picks up the ball and plays. Lucy as treasurer ensures the resources are in place to make sure we are well fed and watered. Sarah and Tom have embraced the monitoring and evaluation task which means not only can we talk about what we’ve done but have some facts and figures to back it up. Nick and Rob have used their coaching experience to evaluate circumstances and set up various activities and induct the team into the CWB approach. Taruna has shown herself to be the Queen of relays and encouraging summaries and feedback from the children. She even has a tiara purchased from a local market to prove it! Holly has bought the teenagers familiarity with screens and mobile devices to help the children through the quizzes, testing their knowledge of HIV and gender related matters, never has being tested seemed so much fun! (Editors note – the attachment to the mobile device does have its benefits – Holly has just been rescued after reporting being trapped in the bathroom following a malfunctioning door handle!). New ambassador Rita has shown us how to communicate with children both in words and actions- never has a elephants walk been so perfectly captured and never have children been so easily organised into huge circles. Just try a chant of “biggie biggie chapati!” Emanuel has made sure we’ve not been bored and I’ve simply enjoyed the excitement that was generated each time the team gets back on the bus after another successful session, sharing tales of group involvement and individual children’s successes. Each of the 2000 children seen matters to the team.
Sunday was another quiet day so after a morning browsing the market and measuring up for some fitted clothing we decided on a match to keep ourselves amused.
However, as we headed to our identified pitch on the field next to our hotel we were surprised to find it already occupied, the local South Asian community preparing for Diwali celebrations with their regular Sunday afternoon match. Of course we chatted about our mutual love of the game and a match was proposed! We went off to practice, but the sight of us in full flow must have been too intimidating as we never quite made it onto the same pitch. It did provide us with the opportunity to include a number of passing children in our game including a number for whom the field was clearly home. Sadly there are limits to what we can do, though we brightened their afternoon and were able to have a chat about keeping themselves safe and healthy. The evening was rounded off by fireworks both natural – a spectacular thunderstorm – the festival of light enjoyed by much of Lira’s. Truly a special multicultural celebration fitting for this beautiful and diverse country.
Written by: Mark Campbell (Project Leader, returning CWB volunteer)