Today we are back at Old Kampala Primary School, as we were on Friday. One of our team members is not present, this is not due to illness or exhaustion (though we are all experiencing the latter). It is because he is off visiting the farm that Making A Difference has set up to provide CRANE with a sustainable source of income to support their incredible work here in Kampala. ‘This can’t be real’, he remarks. ‘Thousands of chickens, thousands more eggs, and all in the course of a few months.’ (For more information on the farm, click here)
Luckily he makes it back to the sports field early enough to not have missed out on the festivities. Today is HOT. The team are constantly reminding each other that we are on the equator, where the sun beats harder and hotter than back in the UK. ‘The clouds here’, comments Dan ‘are deceptive. They provide shade but not relief from the heat. And they certainly don’t stop you getting burnt.’ Even the children today, so used to weather of this intensity, are slowing down as the afternoon stretches on. But you can see in their eyes that they will not let it get the better of them. Their passion for games and learning revitalises us. As the afternoon continues, we all seem to get a second wind.
Tonight we are dining back at Manhattan, after two days of eating elsewhere. The food is delicious and filling but a few of us decide to venture out after dinner again. ‘I vote we just walk,’ says Sam. ‘CaféJavas is just around the corner. Milkshake anyone?’
Today we are in Lugazi. It is much further away than we have been for any of the other sports days. We are out on the Jinja road, back towards where we had our day off on Saturday. The scenery here is incredible. Far from the reaches of urban Kampala, this beautifully green sports field would be enviable to most British sportsmen. ‘It’s almost like we are back home’ Abbie comments as she feels the green dewy grass. ‘Except the heat, obviously.’ And hot, it most certainly is. As the children come for more football and netball tournaments; as they are taught to play simple parachute games that will increase sportsman-like behaviour by Chris and Abbie; as they learn new volleyball skills from Sam and Alex, the heat of the day reaches a crescendo. And then… and I can’t believe we are relieved to see it… the lightest drops of rain. But, in true British fashion, we keep playing. The children won’t stop running or jumping, they won’t stop laughing or dancing. Rain is a blessing and only increases the enjoyment of our amazing day.
Today is the day. It is the last sports day. And for the children it is the summation of the last ten days. The winning netball and football teams from each of the previous sports days are here, ready to battle it out for the title of champion. And the excitement is incredible. Pete and Ian are out on the football pitches working as hard as they can, running as fast as they can, reffing the best they can. The rest of us are with the teams who are waiting to go onto the pitches – playing handball and dodgeball, going on the Bouncy Castle or, for Laura and Sam, spending the day with some of the children from a nearby special needs project. ‘This is incredible’ Laura says with a smile spreading across her sun-kissed face. ‘These children would never normally be part of any kind of sporting activity, let alone involved in a tournament. This is why I believe in CRANE. No child is more relevant or valuable than another. This is what caring for vulnerable children looks like.’
Two teams left in the football – the netball is finished and the champions celebrate on the side-lines of the football pitch – this is the final showdown. The ref blows his whistle and, as if summoned by the shrill noise, the clouds roll in, crack open and the rain comes hard and fast. This is not rain like yesterday. This is not ‘British’ rain. Within a matter of minutes, the lines of the football pitch have been washed away and the children crowd, in their hundreds, under the canvasses that were meant to protect from the sun. Sam, Chris, Dan and Abbie decide, for some reason, that now is the best time to take down the equipment so that it doesn’t get ruined. They are soaked. But then, just as quickly as It came, the rain goes. The sun replaces the damp cold with blazing heat and the final football match continues, albeit on a slightly waterlogged pitch.
Today is our last day. No sports days today. Instead, we are split between the different Child Ambassador projects that we mentioned on the second blog post.
‘Before CRANE’s Child Ambassador Project,’ says one of the children. ‘I did not know that I had a right to feel safe and to be loved.’ It is not an emotional confession or a cry for help, it is a statement of fact: my life has been changed by CRANE. A whole deal more could be said about this, essays could be written, tears could be cried. But that doesn’t seem right at the moment. It is a time for celebration.
We will leave Uganda this evening knowing that we, Making a Difference, are part of a larger mechanism that changes children’s lives in radical and exciting ways.