5th - 18th October
First time volunteer Clare talks about her CWB experience
When I first heard about Cricket Without Boundaries, CWB, I was intrigued and interested but this was tempered with a hint of caution or maybe even scepticism.
It was a case of once burnt twice shy; the last volunteering I had done involved spending a day painting a school blue. The wrong blue.
So was CWB too good to be true? In the end I decided there was only one way to find out and so I signed up to the autumn trip to Uganda.
What was actually going to happen in Uganda remained pretty mysterious until the training weekend. But following the two days in Brighton, a clearer picture of what we were going to be doing emerged. I finished that weekend far more excited than I was doubtful.
What followed was a whirlwind of final preparations, a long journey and two awesome weeks, finally landing with a bump back in the UK.
That bump was just over two weeks ago and I'm still reeling...
The trip had a slow start and in all honestly the first day was tough. Few teachers turned up to the first coach education course and fewer still attended the whole session. In the afternoon, things also failed to go to plan and I'm ashamed to say my scepticism reared its ugly head again.
But we recognised that we needed to tweak some things. One major change was that we decided to go to schools rather than them to come to us. We had transport, they didn't!
Simple changes like this, along with the whole group's (all six UK CWB'ers and two Ugandan coaches) positive attitude and determination to make the most of the situation paid dividends.
The rest of the trip flew by - in no way smoothly or to plan - but each session ended with a feeling of satisfaction that the people who attended had got something valuable out of it.
At the coach ed sessions I was struck by the teachers' staggering commitment to their pupils and enthusiasm to learn. Their efforts were rewarded with a qualification, new skills and loads of ideas not only about cricket but also how to engage kids with the ABCs (and in one case a new job - read about Monday's employment success here)
And then there were the kids.
I've done a bit of coaching in the UK but the raw talent, energy and enthusiasm for a new challenge I encountered in Uganda was mind-blowing. As a consequence, the children seemed to leave the sessions buzzing, as did I, having had fun and learnt loads of new "crickety" stuff.
But they had also had some important health messages driven home.
I've seen a group of more than 250 children singing the ABCs, had 30 15-year-old boys screaming "use a condom" at me and enjoyed the surprise when a group of close catchers, initially chuffed that they had touched the orange ball, discovered it represented the HIV virus and how easily it can be spread.
I really think combining the cricket with HIV messages is inspired. I didn't get how that was going to work before I went out, but it does!
Now I'm home, it's a bit embarrassing – I feel like I've turned into some sort of evangelical CWB monster! My scepticism is a distant memory and I almost feel sorry for people who ask me about the trip, because I find it hard to stop going on about what an awesome experience it was.
The project was so different from the travelling I had done before where you simply try to see the top attractions a country has to offer. This was all about the people we met and the stories they shared. As a result it was way more enlightening, inspiring and rewarding.
Finally, one of things that excites me most about CWB as an organisation is their refusal to rest on their laurels. Although they already have a great formula, running loads of successful projects every year, they are striving to improve and increase their impact trip on trip, year on year.
How can the coaching tools be more relevant and accessible to local teachers? How can we strengthen the tie between cricket and HIV in sessions? Can we get testing centres at all sessions? That's only the stuff I know about, but I think it's great.
It's also something I know I want to stay involved in. I am already planning to go on another CWB trip and help the charity any way I can.
So if you are like I was and read this with a bit of scepticism, my message is simple: sign up for a CWB trip and see for yourself. Go on!
Andrew Bullard – Project Leader
Luke Sellers – ECB Tutor