Views from the skipper (project leader) Rob Jones
The five days coaching we have had so far have been both gratifyingly fun and incredibly productive. They have also been, in relative terms, fairly cushty. Although the previous blog entries are correct in how they portray our work ethic, and I wish to reiterate that the team has coached and spread our HIV messages to a vast quantity of kids of all ages already, the size of Butare and the proximities of the various schools we’ve been in, as well as our hotel, has meant that travel time has been the very least of our worries. In fact the maximum length of time we’ve spent travelling down south has been fifteen minutes, at a push. As I perform my nightly perusing of our schedule, I have a feeling that next week will be a lot more taxing in that respect, with the team splitting between Kigali and Kinihira up north, a good two hours drive away. It is safe to say that up until this morning however, we have been living in a relative lap of African luxury. That changed today – festival time.
A designated start time of 8am still meant a pretty comfortable 7:30am set-off time from the hotel, but the first clues that today would be tough were apparent as soon as we stepped outside. Only just into the second quarter of the day and already the Sun was beating down. Even the morning after the hottest day of the year in Britain you can expect to see some dew on the grass and condensation on the windows. Not so here.
Sun cream was applied liberally and water was in plentiful supply as we set off. The festival was held at the same venue as the scoring course on Wednesday and the road to Kabutare TSS was no less bumpy, if a little dustier. We made good time, although the effort exerted in transporting the bags from the van to the field drew significant beads of sweat from our brows. It must be said, however, that the setting for the festival was nothing short of perfection. An area that would comfortably serve as a location for an English cricket club’s ground, spacious, picturesque and, perhaps most surprisingly, flat, with scrub and treelines bordering one half, a vertical bank around 20 feet high the other. The field was large enough to comfortably fit five pitches, perfect for our contingent of six primary school teams and five secondary.
The last time I was here, the Butare festival, whilst being an overwhelming success, was contested through games of Crossfire. It is testament to the ongoing work of our Ambassadors that the competency we had seen throughout the week made us feel confident enough to run a fully-fledged pairs cricket tournament. Any residual fears we may have had that this would be past the skill level of the participants were allayed when the opening bat in Lewis’ first match hoisted the third delivery of the innings over mid-on onto the bank for six! In fact, the cricket was universally competitive in both the primary and secondary tournaments and, whilst some teams were clearly superior to others, each team had their moments of brilliance, awareness and achievement.
There could only be one winner for each however. Special mentions must go to Regina Pacis secondary school who finished second and had a bowler take a quintuple wicket maiden and Nyampinga Girl’s Orphanage, who competed in the primary tournament, finishing third and taught us all about team spirit and the way the game should be played. GSB Catholic school were the winners of the primary (although I wouldn’t mind seeing the birth certificates of a few of their players) and
the deserving winners of the secondary were our gracious hosts, Kabutare TSS. I don’t think anyone on our team would begrudge them the win. Comprised of a healthy mix of boys and girls, the impression we got of these guys was of earnest maturity, as well as obvious sporting ability. I know when out M+E lead Dan performed his questionnaire with them, the responses he received were thoughtful and well-expressed, both with regards to HIV awareness and general healthcare. It is unfortunate that the message that they were most eager to convey was that, despite how much they would love to, when they leave school they will be unable to continue to train and play cricket, chiefly because of the distances they would be required to travel – one boy (namely the newly christened Butare Express) lives six hours away. It would be a real tragedy if these young people were denied the opportunity to carry on progressing in their chosen sport. I believe that in the ambassadors, the RCA and crucially the teachers at their school, that there will develop a support network sufficient to help them along their desired path. The need to expand the influence and the availability of cricket in Rwanda will not go away soon, neither will the necessity of addressing the issues around HIV in the country. Who knows, these youngsters may be the national players or the CWB Ambassadors of the future.
A few pictures from the day!!
A special mention to the most obviously fake football shirt known to man