“I want to take Ugandan music to the next level.” This was probably the most unexpected answer to one of our evaluation questions about aspirations for the future. I’m standing in the middle of a scrappy school playing field, fighting off the flying ants, wishing just a little bit of cloud cover would appear for a few minutes and learning to expect the unexpected. This is one of many happy memories from my first volunteering trip with CWB.
In the build up to the trip I was asked many times what I would be doing, where I was going and exactly what the links are between cricket and HIV. In all honesty I couldn’t answer those questions very well then, but now I can explain a little bit about how I got there and what happened.
I had procrastinated somewhat about signing up for volunteering – not because of the opportunity to visit parts of Africa that are a little bit off the beaten track and not because my cricketing skills are definitely below average – because of the fundraising. In hindsight, having this challenge made my trip even better- it was the first of many new skills I acquired thanks to CWB.
Things became very real at the training weekend where you meet your team mates and through what must be magic learn everything you need including coaching techniques, details about the country you’re visiting and the importance of an improvised song and dance. Although nothing can quite prepare you for seeing and hearing 150 children running full pelt at you on a rutted field when you’ve just been admiring the peaceful mountain vistas.
That’s what it’s like on a trip. You can plan for everyday but in reality you don’t know where you’re going to be coaching, how many children there will be, whether they’ve played before, how old they are and how many of their friends will come and join in at break times.
I was part of a fabulous team and we all gave each other the confidence that we could adapt to whatever we needed, we could all introduce the sessions and talk comfortably about the realities of HIV, the importance of being tested and ideas about community development and making a difference. We worked with teachers and alongside the local CWB Ambassador to see how the work we do on a two week trip can be continued and developed year round.
Would I advise you to volunteer? Without a doubt – whatever your background or experience, whether you play cricket or not, whether you’re an experienced traveller or not – this is an opportunity to see beautiful parts of the world, have two weeks filled with smiles, laughter, song and dance, be amazed by the strength and resilience of people and really make a difference through sport.
You can volunteer for 2018 trips right here.