Test Match Sofa
Colvin helps spell out World Aids Day message
By Luke Sellers
Across a dusty field in Kenya a wall of sound rose up through the mid-morning heat as an army of schoolchildren marched from one coaching station to the next.
At the front of one line England Women's team spinner Holly Colvin led the sea of smiling faces in a chant that built up to a deafening crescendo as they reached the area of scrub set out for their next cricketing activity.
“ABC! CWB! ABC! CWB...” the jubilant battle cry rang out, simultaneously celebrating the visit of UK charity Cricket Without Boundaries and reinforcing the vital HIV/AIDS awareness messages of Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise, that are at the heart of their work.
Less than a week after her team’s agonising four-run defeat to Australia in October’s World Twenty20 final, Colvin joined six other volunteers on a two-week project that took them from the bustling city of Nakuru to the remote rural area of Laikipia.
After the heartbreak of Colombo you could forgive the 23-year-old for taking a well-earned break from the sport but instead she says the trip proved the perfect antidote.
She said: “There were a lot of tears shed after the World Cup final defeat but coming to Kenya reminded me that although it would have been great to win, it is only a game.
“The trip with CWB was an incredible, humbling experience and one I will never forget. The people, the atmosphere, the numbers of children we coached and seeing how much they loved it was absolutely amazing. It also reminded me of when I started playing and gave me back some of my love for the game. I would recommend it to anyone.”
Over an inspiring and emotional fortnight, Colvin and a diverse team that included myself (I am also a level 3 coach and ECB tutor), a college student and a financial analyst, coached more than 3,000 children, trained 56 new coaches and visited 16 schools and orphanages.
In one particularly memorable session at Nakuru Elite School we even managed to include 500 kids in a gloriously chaotic and joyous session full of whirling bats, flying stumps and dancing conga-lines.
During the project we worked alongside coaches from Cricket Kenya and also trained members of the Maasai Cricket Warriors. The team are made up of Maasai tribesman and are the subject of an upcoming documentary featuring Jimmy Anderson as executive producer.
As well as offering children a fun-filled first taste of cricket, CWB’s other mission is to use the sport to improve HIV/AIDS awareness messages. In Kenya alone an estimated 1.5 million people live with HIV and some 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS.
Throughout the trip we encountered shocking reminders of the devastating effects of the epidemic, coaching children who are HIV positive, and others that have been orphaned by the disease. CWB’s ethos is to bring the key HIV/AIDS awareness messages of Abstain Be faithful and Condominse/protect yourself to life by incorporating them into their coaching sessions.
Colvin said: “I think cricket can be a huge tool in educating people about the disease. This was clearly demonstrated when we went into schools and none of the kids had a clue what the ABC's stood for at the start. But after doing the ABC messages through cricket (for example, ABSTAIN from bending your arm when bowling, or BE FAITHFUL to the rules) it really stuck in their minds and they were all chanting it at the end of the session.”
At the schools tournament in Laikipia, the charity took the link between cricket and HIV/AIDS prevention a step further, with three voluntary testing tents set up alongside the pitches – a CWB first. The result was remarkable, with around 100 people – mainly children – being tested compared to an average of around two or three on a normal day, something the local nurses put down to reducing the stigma around testing.
Georgina Otieno, one of the HIV/AIDS nurses who carried out the tests, said: “The festival contributed a lot because when you can bring kids together – in fact not only the children but adults too - it creates awareness and people start talking openly about HIV. Even people who aren’t involved in the tournament see it going on and wonder what is happening.
“We would like to do this more as we really want to be able to create awareness. HIV is affecting everything in Kenya, even the economy, and it is crucial that children grow up knowing how to stay safe.”
One of the charity’s other main tools in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to empower women and to promote equal opportunities by insisting boys and girls play in the same team. As well as promoting mutual respect, local teachers even told us this has lowered the rate of teenage pregnancies in some places.
Seeing the boys and girls playing together also provided Colvin with her highlight from the trip during the schools festival in Nakuru. She said: “This young girl called Faith clean bowled a boy twice her size. All her teammates came rushing up and high-fived her and you could see she wasn’t just a girl making up the team but an integral part of it.
“It reminded me of when I first started playing cricket. I was just one of the boys and treated as an equal. It was incredible to see that it happens out in Kenya and I think it will really help tackle some of the problems there.”
*Luke Sellers has written regularly for The Cricketer magazine. To find out more about the charity, including how to volunteer, visit www.cricketwithoutboundaries.com
• Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB) is a UK cricket development and AIDS awareness charity run almost entirely by volunteers.
• The charity was founded in 2005 by trustees Andy Hobbs, Chris Kangis and Ed Williams. Their first project was a seven-month trip coaching cricket from Cairo to Cape Town.
• Since its formation the charity has delivered 37 projects in nine African countries, coaching more than 30,000 children and training over 2,000 coaches.
• Working in partnership with the National Cricket Associations in each country, the relevant British High Commissions and the ICC, the charity’s two main goals are to spread cricket and to increase HIV/AIDS awareness by incorporating the key messages into every day coaching sessions.
• The charity is committed to delivering projects in at least five African countries on a twice-yearly basis. In 2013 they will be returning to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana and Cameroon.
Picture and video link: http://www.cricketwithoutboundaries.com/press/wad/
December 1 is World Aids Day
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