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Tuesday, 21 July 2020 09:58

CWB was born out of friendship, idealism and adventure

In the late 1990’s three friends at university, Ed Williams, Chris Kangis and Andy Hobbs had a dream that one day they would travel across Africa on local transport and coach cricket in the townships.

The idea had in part come from watching Michael Palin’s epic journey Pole to Pole and his travels from Cairo to Cape Town. Fast forward to spring 2004 and at a kitchen table in a flat in London and Cricket Without Boundaries was born.

The idea was that Chris, a solicitor, Andy, a cricket development officer and Ed, a barrister would quit their jobs for a year in October 2005 and spend the next 7 months travelling from Cairo to Cape Town coaching coaches how to coach and inspiring as many children as they could. Basic plastic cricket equipment would be left in each of the areas they would visit. This would be a world first.

As the three started to plan for the logistics of this, it soon became clear that Africa was in the midst of an AIDS epidemic: the sheer scale of that tragedy had been lost in the mainstream reporting of it in the West. Given that the idea was to be spending hours at time with thousands of young Africans, it would be negligent not to take the opportunity to talk to them about protecting themselves and others from that vicious disease. So from that point on CWB’s cricket would have an AIDS awareness message to it.

Quotes of support were gathered from the then UK Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Flintoff and Michael Palin himself; websites were designed, cricket equipment suppliers pleaded with, fundraising sought (including walking up Mount Snowdon in cricket whites), embassies and national cricket associations contacted, coaching programmes designed and notice periods given.

Flying from London Heathrow to Cairo with more cricket equipment than has probably ever been taken to North Africa before, Ed, Chris and Andy delivered their first session in a Cairo suburb. Over the next 7 months they travelled through Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. In the process they coached almost 3,000 children, left Kwik Cricket Equipment behind and taught and certified 175 new coaches with the International Cricket Council (ICC) basic coaching qualification.

Travelling courtesy of a motley collection of battered and lethal buses, taxis, matatus (shared mini-buses), bicycles and, on one occasion, a forty-four hour trek in an old Chinese train, CWB encountered international cricketers, politicians, crooks, aid workers, diplomats, teachers and thousands of inspirational children.

In 2005 UNAIDS statistics showed that 24.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa already have HIV/AIDS, this meant that very quickly the three friends, realised that CWB’s efforts could not just be focused on messages of prevention, but on breaking down the daily stigma that those with the disease face. Throughout the project children and adults, with or without the disease, played, trained and worked together.

One brave little girl was to personify the importance of breaking down stigma: Eva. Coaching in a Kenyan slum in Thika and working alongside KENWA (Kenya Network of Women with AIDS), CWB met this incredibly frail little girl in the final stages of AIDS. For some time she had been too ill to get out of bed, but on this one day, playing with the other children, she was able to hit the winning runs on a rubbish-strewn and parched wasteland. Her smile lit up the project and has continued to inspire so many volunteers.

Eva2006

Returning back to “normal” life in the UK, a decision was made not to make the trip a one-off, but to continue to build on the work that had already been done. With limited resources a decision was made to turn CWB into a volunteer charity run by volunteers, for volunteers. Hundreds and thousands of children and adults have now been coached since this first CWB project and the charity continues to develop and strengthen.

Ed, Andy and Chris stepped down as trustees from the charity in early 2020.

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359 Ware Road,
Hertford, SG13 7EL
UK registered charity 1154576

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