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Neven bowled over in Uganda
ON days two and three we started to get into the heart of the matter.
The morning after our flight out, our intrepid team convened at 7am for breakfast – the early hour almost completely mitigated by an extraordinary sunrise over Lake Victoria.
A short while later we were on our way to Ndejje, carried (in a last-min-ute substitution) by Ken and his trusty Chinese bus.
Ndejje is a hill 42km north of Kam-pala, and with our accommodation being to the south it meant we faced the full fury of the capital’s rush hour, a maelstrom of cars, vans, trucks and driving styles.
Our first day in Ndejje involved coaches training, whereby we provide local teachers the knowledge and skills to continue CWB’s work once we have departed.
Led by head coach Graham (aka The Silver Fox), 20 coaches were instructed on ways to deliver warm-up exercises, batting, bowling and fielding sessions before being assessed on their understanding and ability to communicate these sessions.
It was heartening how fully they threw themselves into these sessions. They also showed a natural ability to execute the training while also delivering the key ABC HIV/AIDS prevention messages, something that I had found the most difficult to envisage.
By the end of a long, hot and sweaty day we had a fresh batch of newly qualified basic coaches. And we were going to need them.
Day three started even earlier than day two, the full extent of the journey to Ndejje now apparent.
Unfortunately Ken’s trusty bus blew a tyre on the way to pick us up and once again we descended into the belly of the Kampala beast.
Some 2.5 hours later we arrived in Ndejje and immediately it became clear we were going to have a hell of a day. We were now going to be coaching kids from local schools and as we made our entrance we already had more than 100 expectant faces tracking us in.
With no time to waste, we immediately set up a carousel of four exercises (batting, bowling, catching and wicketkeeping) and got everyone started. But the numbers kept swelling, and in the end, best estimates figured that we had at least 200 kids from nine schools taking part. With so many numbers, the drills were kept relatively simple and fast-moving, so the kids had as much chance as possible to get involved.
It became immediately obvious that Ugandan children are natural athletes, particularly when it comes to throwing.
You might (as I did) expect a primary school age child to throw relatively gently, so it came as a surprise to find tennis balls being heaved flat and hard towards my head.
I initially felt quite a heavy pressure faced with 50+ kids at a time. expecting Mzungu wisdom, but the fantastic thing about these sessions was their desire just to play, for the fun, excitement and enjoyment of sport and nothing more.
That kind of pure, undiluted enthusiasm is infectious and any concerns quickly subsided.
The afternoon consisted of several rounds of ‘non-stop cricket’, a great game for ensuring all the kids have a chance to swing a bat, take a catch, dive, jump and throw themselves around fearlessly in a semi-competitive setting.
Our corner featured some lusty leg-side smashes, flying saves and, most memorably, one boy of around eight calmly plucking a catch off a ball that had been lasered at his head from less than 10 feet (followed by the widest grin you could ever imagine).
By 3.30pm though it was clear that some kids (and frankly most of the coaches) were flagging in the heat, and we brought everyone together for some final thoughts, photos and gifts. It had been a fantastic day, and it was not over yet.
Firstly there were the final instalments of Gavin’s typical CWB day video blog (featuring some extraordinary accents) and secondly we had been invited to dinner by Standard Chartered, which is kindly investing in CWB.
Over Thai food, we met with their team and via gentle persuasion they agreed that they would come to Ndejje with us the following morning for our festival day, potentially bringing with them Uganda’s most famous comedian Pablo!
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