Discovering some uncomfortable truths
CWB’s interest in setting up coaching projects in Rwanda was something that initially came about while working in neighbouring countries. “All three of us were at the University of Nottingham in 1994 when the genocide was under way, but due to a lack of reporting on the situation at the time, we were so naive about what had happened,” explains Andy. “When we later started travelling through Africa, especially in Uganda, we couldn’t believe how little we knew about this huge tragedy and the suffering of so many. Really, that’s what brought us here.”
After the success of their first Rwanda project in 2007, the CWB decided to send an annual team of ICC-qualified volunteers to coach children and young adults for a fortnight. Over those 14 days the team reaches out to approximately 2,500 children across Rwanda’s schools and orphanages.
As part of their ethos of inclusion, they have often found themselves bridging the gap between children whose families belonged to the different tribes divided by the genocide – something Andy says really brings home the history of the country.
“One day, a girl turned up on the pitch for coach training and she was wearing a woollen hat even though it was a hot day,” he says. “While we worked with her we discovered that the reason she was wearing a hat was to hide a huge machete scar across her head. She was an orphan from the genocide and had been attacked when she was about four. Seeing her laughing and smiling while she played a game of cricket – well it makes you realise there is a real history there that you can’t begin to comprehend.”
Lack of knowledge amajor concern
Although at just 3 per cent HIV prevalence is relatively low in Rwanda when compared to other African countries, Unicef says young people, especially girls, lack comprehensive knowledge to prevent being infected by HIV.
In addition to contaminated medical equipment, poor knowledge about how the disease spreads is among the main reasons it is so prevalent in the region, say experts. Consequently, behavioural-change programmes are imperative to maintain its low infection rate, something that CWB leader for Rwanda Bob Hopkins says is at the root of what they do. He points out that although the rate of infection might be lower, “that still means over 200,000 people are living with HIV/Aids and that around 170,000 children have been left orphaned by the disease. That’s why it’s really important we deliver the message to the young about their future”.
Many children have been left orphaned either by the genocide or by Aids in Rwanda and although the CWB focuses on spreading the game of cricket by visiting as many different schools as possible over the fortnight, they always find the time to visit the kids at the Rwanda Orphanage Project.
Communications manager at CWB, Lee Booth, says it is always an unforgettable and eye-opening experience. “Last time I saw a little boy who came running out with a huge smile to help me set up the pitch. I asked who the little fellow was and it turns out they’d found him on the streets just a few days before. The reason he was noticed was because at just five years old he was trying to register himself in a school. It just shows you what these kids go through and their resilience.”
On the pitch, the methods of the CWB, while perhaps not entirely unique, are certainly effective. “There is no doubt that a lot of these children hear similar [HIV-awareness] messages a lot of the time,” explains Lee. “But it’s proven that kids highly respect sports coaches and I think the method of using a fun activity – in this case cricket – is a powerful way of getting the message across in a different way. The message has been tailored so that it is visually effective while easily transcending language barriers.’’
All CWB coaches are trained to deliver messages highlighting the importance of abstaining from sex, being faithful and using protection, alongside other illustrative techniques. For example, they show the importance of being faithful to just one person by comparing it to the fact that you are more likely to be run out in cricket should your attention focus on multiple players; or they