It feels as though my first thoughts when I start to write my blog are about time and how crazy it is that I am coming so close to my departure date. Today marks the 3 week countdown to when I will head to South Africa for Basketball Without Borders. Thankfully, I will be coming back next year as the country director, but if that weren’t the case I would be terribly lost with what to do next. This has been such a humbling experience and I know it will be difficult to go back home where things are so easy; a hot shower on demand and food overflowing the fridge.
[This is random but I was just called outside because there were 3 monkeys in the trees in our backyard! I know some of you reading this may think that that isn’t unexpected because I am in Africa, however, I haven’t seen a monkey since I have been here. My roommates who have been here for years haven’t seen monkeys, so this is awesome! I was trying to get a picture with one as I was feeding it an avocado but it would only come so close. I’m hoping that if I keep feeding them they will keep coming back until one of them becomes my pet!]
Anyways, back to business! Over the last few weeks Remy and I have really buckled down and are trying to get things done before we leave, having everything set in place for Matt and Jazz in October, starting with our International NGO status. We finally met with the Minister of Sport. She is new so she wasn’t aware of Shooting Touch and our activities. After the meeting we tried to get a picture with her but she awkwardly denied. We were all fake laughing as she explained that she didn’t think it was appropriate to take a picture in her office, yet better to be on the court with the kids. Nevertheless, she now knows of our work and we can move forward with the proper documentation that we need. We are hoping that by the end of the week we can hand in all of our documents to apply for international status.
Moving onto the on court activities, we put on a great event in Kayonza last weekend! After a lot of planning, we picked the top kids from each court to compete for a position on the Shooting Touch All-Star Team! Overall, there were 22 boys, and 10 girls present. The low number of girls was due to the fact that the skill level is still developing amongst them and it was easy to decipher who would be able to play on the team. Whereas the boys it was more difficult. In order to make the selection fair, we had judges come in from Kigali to select the top 10. We were very pleased with our judges as we had 3 national team coaches (mens Rwanda team, U16 boys, and U16 girls coaches), a player on the women’s national team, Priscilla Dodoo, the former grantee and current professional basketball player, and a coach from the Women’s team Ubumwe, in Kigali. Our goal in having these coaches there was to see the talent, hoping that one day one of our kids will have the chance to play on the national team.
The event ran smoothly and the kids competed hard! After the selections were made there were smiles on the kids who made it, and tears for some that weren’t. Although upsetting to see, it is nice that to know that this meant something to them.
After the try-outs Remy went right into playoff games on his court, while I waited until Sunday for the games in Rwinkwvau. We were both exhausted by the end of the weekend after long days in the sun and the stress of making sure things ran smoothly. However, we wanted to make sure we had everything taken care of that weekend so we would have the next one to ourselves. As the weekend wrapped up and the league games came to an end we have 2 teams from Rukara (Primary and Girls), 2 teams from Nyamirama (Secondary and Girls) and 2 teams from Kayonza (Primary and Secondary). I was very sad that no teams from Rwinkwavu made the finals but we are coming for the title next year!
On top of all of this, we have our interns coming to our practices weekly and doing hour long lessons with the kids. This past week we had a lesson on stress management from Beatrice; our leadership intern, and a lesson on macronutrients from Fabiola, our health intern. It is great to see our kids learning and participating in these lessons. They all have notebooks and pens, supplied by my old high school, St.Basils, and take notes for every lesson. After learning the material they are tested the following week with prizes for those who do the best. For health, we have been keeping it relevant and give prizes such as fruit. The kids love it, it is healthy for them, and cheap for us. It’s a win win situation.
We have also started to take a closer look at education and how our kids are doing in the classroom. In Rwinkwavu, Tina, Patrick and I have gone to the kids schools and talked to their teachers. We have set up tutoring for the kids who are struggling and having the teachers keep tabs on our kids to make sure they are going to class. We have made the arrangement that if anyone is missing school consistently they are not allowed to participate in practice or games. For one of the schools nearby, I go in every Thursday, bring them lunch and help with their English homework. I was surprised after one lesson where one of my students asked me to give them homework. Can you imagine that in the U.S? I also had kids swarming the outside of the classroom trying to listen to the lesson, I told them that they are all welcome to come in, while some were too shy others took a seat and participated. Sometimes, even the teachers answer the questions,as if the lesson is for them.
In Nyamirama I had my head coach go to all the schools as well to see who needs extra help and in what subject. Luckily, he went to University to become a teacher so he will start tutoring out there as well. I am really hoping that this is something that continues after Remy and I leave. To stay true to our mission this is something that we should be devoting our time to.
That is all I have for you right now and the next update that I write will probably be when I am leaving Rwanda. I am curious to see what flows into my head and how I am feeling about things.
Until next time!