Keeping up with Rwanda

My second week in Rwanda was once again a huge success. I got to meet so many people and also got to work with the precious kids on each court. Monday afternoon we checked-out at the Hostel in Kigali and headed to Nyamirama, which is an hour and fifty minutes away from Kigali. The bus ride was definitely comfortable for Isa and Lisanne because they are both less than 6 feet tall. I had to squeeze between Isa and Lisanne because of my 6’7″ height all the way to Kayonza Station. I just plugged my headphones in and enjoyed my Rwandese music while they enjoyed the comfortable seats by taking a nap.

Bus Ride to Kayonza
Bus Ride to Kayonza

Once in Kayonza we had to take another bus to Nyamirama where the basketball court is located.

The kids were really excited to meet us for the first time and of course some of them tried to show off with their basketball skills. They were asking about the previous grantees especially Kevin. We noticed the great work that Kevin and Priscilla did with the kids in Nyamirama. We started with some dribbling drills and the Criss-Cross drill. After a couple of sets we went to the passing session. After a few stations we could evaluate the level of the kids and what needed to be ameliorated in the next 10 months. After practice this kid Cedric asked me to dunk for everyone, and I could see big smiles on their faces. A little baby dunk got them all excited. Cedric asked me if I could help him dunk? I said of course! I lifted him until he reached the rim then he SLAMMED the ball so hard, and that got everyone excited. The kids are so lovely and really smart.

Around 6:30 we were heading to Rwinkwavu to spend the night and meet our next group the day after. We made a stop at Kabarondo Station and then took another bus to Rwink. We made our own dish called the “Shooting Touch dish” created by Kevin. It’s basically veggies and rice mixed to together. They said Kevin cooks it better but I think Lisanne and I got it all. The next Day at 9:30 we got to the Rwink court where Casey and Isaura did a great job building a strong relationship with the kids and also the community. They love their coaches and they would stand by our doors 20 minutes before practice and start calling our names to go practice. The workout went really well and our main purpose was to get to know the players’ names. At the end we played a game of Knockout, which they called “the bye-bye” game. Some kids would purposely wait until it is our turn to shoot to sneak behind us and try to knock us out. It felt like they had their best practice of their lives. After practice, we decided to go to the supermarket and buy some rice and veggies. We did not get there alone. They wanted to follow us all the way to the market, showed us the way to get there, and what surprised me the most was that they wanted to carry the bags of rice and bananas. That was the highlight of my week.

Kids helping with the groceries.
Kids helping with the groceries.
On Wednesday we to met with Luke and Akira, the principals at Gahini Secondary Boarding School. Gahini is where the next court will be built. It is the perfect spot to build a court because it is a boarding school and the kids are excited to have a new sport added into their program. We are doing our best to get the court ready ASAP because they are excited to work with Shooting Touch.
Gahini Principals
Gahini Principals
Gahini Meeting
Gahini Meeting
Gahini Site
Gahini Site

After the meeting in Gahini, the next stop was Rukara Court, where we first met the kids and coach Aime. Coach Aime was doing a great job keeping the players right on track because we could tell that they had skills and they were ready to play basketball like every kid on each site. The Rukara Site is in the center of a Primary and Secondary school. As soon as they got out of school, the little kids with their school uniforms came straight to the basketball court while we are running our drills. Coach Isaura took care of it by telling them to stay on the side line and watch.

Isaura with the Rukara kids.
Isa with the Rukara kids.
The next and last stop was Kayonza Court. As mentioned earlier, they were excited to meet us and get the basketball game going. We put them in two groups and then started a shooting drill. When we got there we saw that there were constructions being done around the court. Therefore, the manager suggested that we restart our activities the following week. In a short amount of time we got to know the kids and the coaches and we gave them an idea about the future plans especially the league. The kids got more excited when it comes to competing with other sites.
All four sites including Gahini were visited and notes were taken based on the future plans with Shooting Touch. Saturday morning we had a meeting with the Rwandese Federation of Basketball to develop a partnership with the new grantees. Many point were discussed and several agreements came upon regarding developing youth basketball in Rwanda through the program of Shooting Touch. In other words, we want Rwanda to be one of the top five countries in FIBA.
Isaura introduced us the general secretary and also showed their facilities.
Federation Meeting
Federation Meeting

I made a stop at their nice soccer stadium, which reminds a lot about my home town in Senegal. I grew up near a soccer stadium, but people still ask me why I choose to be a basketball player. I just tell them “that it’s a long story.” Also, there is nothing better than watching my coworkers play basketball with the UGB girls, and of course I was supposed to be the cheerleader but I ended up being the referee. They ended up winning by 2 points against their staff members. I helped them win by not calling a foul at the last second of the game and they still weren’t happy about the way I was making the calls lol.
I ended the week with an awesome church service in downtown Kigali. Ben Thomas was speaking, and he shared his wonderful story about his family. I was really impressed, and it motivated me.

 

Isa and Lisanne playing ball with UGB
Isa and Lisanne playing ball with UGB
Team UGB
Team UGB
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