Five days before departure to Cameroon I posted the first ‘experience’ blog entitled, ‘How did I find myself here?’ Re-reading that blog post there are three sentences/objectives amongst the jokes, bravado and blatant plug for sponsorship that now, post-trip, stand out.
“I have not placed too much energy on wondering what to expect…. I'm looking forward to discovering Cameroon for myself and enjoying the whole experience.”
I’m glad I didn’t spend too long wondering what to expect. Beyond coaching nearly 2000 kids in two wholly enjoyable weeks I’d never have come up with this batch of bucket list items;
- Play for ‘Team Commonwealth’ in a cricket match against Cameroon in front of Government Ministers!
- Attend the national ‘Commonwealth Gala Dinner’ with the Minister for External Relations and the British High Commissioner!
- Meet the President of the Cameroon Olympic Committee and the Committee, all of them!
- Experience a full-on Tropical Storm – Thunder, lightning, rain, wind – at 4am!
- Meet with the Ministry of Sport & Physical education!
- Teach a nun how to play cricket!
- Appear on Cameroonian National TV – TWICE!!
- Meet ROGER MILLA!!! Legend!
And all the above was just the first five days!
“This trip…will hopefully re-ignite my passion for coaching, bring the smiles back to coaching, provide smiles for the participants and provide friendships for life.”
I’m not sure that my passion for coaching a junior club side in England was reignited, but the experience of coaching a ‘new’ sport, at its most basic skill level to enthusiastic and highly competitive children, who in turn want to both learn and to please is, I have found while writing this, indescribable.
(Believe me it’s taken 15 minutes to try and find the words only to settle on the wholly inadequate ‘indescribable’!)
In terms of ‘providing smiles’ the photo library amassed shows little else, across everything we did and everywhere we went. Cameroon smiled on us and we could only do but smile back. If you have a spare 20 minutes take a look at the Flickr set in the link here.
And friendships? In the main, eight strangers met at Heathrow one Saturday morning. Two weeks later eight friends landed. We ate, trained, coached, joked, travelled, milled about and played together, a group extended further to include the local coaches. We worked hard. We laughed a lot. We laughed an awful lot, and laughed especially at the limitations of our ‘Tricolor’ inspired education of the French language. All are now connected via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest!
“There is also a small part of me that wants to enjoy the trip so much that I do it again, and in future with my son too!”
Would I do it again? YES! Without any hesitation. The only real questions are, ‘How soon?’, and ‘Where?’
I will certainly return to Cameroon one day with CWB (provided they want me to!) but not too soon, as I would like to see how the programme develops over time, both in terms of cricket development and truly making inroads into breaking the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and testing, and depending on finances and the generosity of donors I would potentially like to experience CWB in another country.
That said, I hope that, enthused by this trip and enthused by the work CWB does, that I can be of some use to CWB in this country, be it in assisting with recruitment, training weekends, presenting my experiences and the charity’s work to schools, cricket clubs and other interested parties….anything!
First stop is a presentation to Year 8’s, currently studying the demography and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa in Geography, at Colston’s School in Bristol on April 30th……that is after I’ve checked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, and catch up with the shenanigans of my new, and hopefully lifelong friends to be.
Thank you to CWB for this fantastic opportunity.
Thank you to Jo, Dave (38), Jono, David (52), Jules, Roger & Liam for a truly memorable life experience.
Thank you to Penny & Sam, my fantastic family, for supporting me all the way there and back, even if it was on the proviso that the life insurance was up to date and ‘to the max’! But one time Sam, you're coming too!
The full blog from Cameroon can be found here - http://cwbblogs.com/cameroon14/