Coaching cricket to Kenyans for a charitable cause was not on Worth School’s Head of French’s New Year wish list this time last year. But as a two-week trip to Kenya with the HIV/AIDs charity Cricket Without Boundaries has proven, what a difference a year can make. Here Mlle Brenot describes the impact becoming a volunteer for the charity has had on her…
“I have learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou (poet, author, civil rights activist)
Having returned from two weeks of volunteering work in Kenya with the charity Cricket Without Boundaries, this quote strongly resonates in my heart.
When I first moved to Manchester from France, I knew nothing about tea being the national problem solver, about pub crawls and quiz evenings, driving on the left, playing rounders… and least of all cricket! Fast forward 15 years later and I have gone from having no cricket knowledge to teaching cricket in schools in remote areas of Kenya – all in aid of helping to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. I cannot convey how overwhelmed and excited I was to be part of such a project.
The charity has worked in African countries since 2005 “to break down barriers of discrimination, empower individuals and educate about prevention and testing” [of HIV/AIDs]. Kenya has both male and female international cricket playing teams and has featured in every ICC Word Cup since 1996 so the sport is a great way to get these important messages to communities. The charity works with the Cricket Associations in each country, using cricket coaching to bring together communities and link messages to the sport to help fight the disease.
In the words of the charity’s CEO David Murray (formerly chief executive of The Green Party): “We all want to reach as many children and community groups as is practical to send a clear message about how to avoid HIV/AIDS and we attempt to break down stigma associated with this illness. And we do this with a huge dollop of fun through coaching and playing cricket.”
During my two-week visit, I met some very memorable children whose faces would readily break into a smile as they showed eagerness to learn and to interact with the mzungu (Swahili for ‘white European’). Most Kenyans, particularly the young ones have some knowledge of English, but my Swahili has also progressed! The conditions can be quite challenging – there may be as many as 600 kids on a tennis-court-sized field.
At times I had to fight back tears when faced by some of their background stories; from mutilation through to them having been abandoned due to the disease itself. Frequently, I felt powerless at the sight of true poverty.
But not only are the Kenyans resilient fighters, they are keen sports people and they are grateful for the work we accomplished. Over the course of our stay, we visited a dozen orphanages or children’s homes and saw 4,000-plus children, and the managers as well as the teachers we met thanked us for the joy we brought into all their lives for few hours. People sacrificed drinkable water which is much sought after there, giving it to us, as a token of thanks and opened the doors of their homes to us.
Since returning, my way of thinking has undeniably changed: I am the master of my own fate, I will do my utmost to seize the opportunities I am offered, and one of these will be to continue as a volunteer with the charity.
And in the words of Maya Angelou, with time, I will forget what has been said or who I met but I will never forget how they made me feel.