At Shooting Touch, we like to talk about family. My first email from Lindsey after earning my Rwanda BHC Fellowship concluded with “Welcome to the Shooting Touch Family.” Although her final salutation felt admittedly tacky at the time (I feel like EVERYONE says welcome to the family these days, regardless of if you’ve actually joined someone’s family or you’ve signed up for a credit card company’s reward program – “Welcome to the MasterCard Premiere Family”) the next weeks and now months since receiving that email have proven me wrong.
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People tend to go above and beyond to make sure that our family members are happy. On one of my first official days of work for Shooting Touch, before Bob Hurley Camp in West Roxbury, MA, Chloe and I had never even met or spoken. At the time I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Brookline, and Chloe came and picked me up before working camp and had iced coffee waiting for me when she rolled up to my buddy’s apartment. After a red-eye flight into Boston from the West Coast and in a 90-degree summer day in Boston, that was the best coffee I’ve ever had.
With that, the tone for the rest of mine and Chloe’s relationship was set as was my relationship with everyone else from Shooting Touch. My family increased in size that day.
Little did I know, the rest of the Shooting Touch family would uphold the standard that Chloe had established that day on the way to Hurley Camp. I have stories for just about everyone I’ve come into contact with because of Shooting Touch and how considerate and helpful they’ve all been. Lisanne Comeau directing me from Logan Airport to my hotel even though she’s not from Boston. Kevin Kettl playing the role of mentor/older brother throughout my fellowship. Remy Ndiaye talking me off a ledge when I was struggling with the best way to be a leader in Kayonza. Lindsey (and Justin) being, well, Lindsey and Justin, the passionate, inspiring, semi-crazy entrepreneurial leaders that our organization deserves. Everyone has been there to support me and my personal/professional development throughout my tenure here in Rwanda. To all of you, I love you and appreciate everything that you’ve done for me until now. On each of the aforementioned and countless other occasions, my family grew again.
When I arrived in Rwanda, my family grew yet again. By about 12 coaches, 600 kids, and a handful of teammates from my “professional” team, UGB. I have anecdotes for most of them too. As I sit here writing, I’ve received a text from Cyusa Jean Luc (aka Jamba), UGB’s President, asking, “What’s up son?” A handful of kids at the Rukara and Kayonza courts either refer to me as “Papa Mandazi” or “Big Brother.” Christian Nijyimbere and the other coaches who I live with and interact with on a daily basis in Kayonza and Rukara have gone above the call to make me feel welcome and integrated into the communities I work in. Even when my own family came all the way from the US, they were welcomed with open arms into the communities that Shooting Touch impacts. Each family member on separate occasions has told me how impressed and touched they were by the people during their visit to Rwanda. We work in such a wonderful place here, even if some days are more difficult than others (but that’s life I suppose).
Post practice family meeting in Kayonza to discuss healthcare enrollment.
I often struggle with when to wear my work hat and when not to, the lines between the two often blur because we’re all so close. Like any family, we have our ups and downs. Some days we love and appreciate each other a ton, other days we want nothing to do with each other. But always, our commitment to the work we’re doing and the satisfaction we receive from seeing our other family members’ success(es) reminds us to put aside our differences and remember why we are here. I know I push my coaches beyond their comfort zones almost every day. Lisanne and Chloe both push me to be a better version of myself, even when it isn’t easy to deliver that constructive criticism. Thank you.
I have to take a minute as well to shout-out Board Members Jackie MacMullan, Amy Latimer, and Chiney Ogwumike. It was an absolute pleasure hosting you during March, I am so glad to have met each of you. Before our board arrived in Rwanda, Lisanne, Chloe, and I were extremely nervous about meeting you, and by the end of the visit it felt like I’d known each of you my entire life.
I think my readers can see where I’m going with all this. As cynical as I may have been when I first received that email from Linds on my first day about “joining the Shooting Touch family” the people who I’ve met along the way have proven my cynicism wrong. From the top down, this is an incredible organization comprised of exceptional people, whether in Boston or Rwanda.
To Matt Barr and Jordan Dillard, the two incoming fellows (congrats on the fellowship by the way), I’ve got some news for you. Once you join this organization, you’re in it for life. Your initiation consists of a really long flight from Boston to Rwanda, followed by riding a shaky moto to a basketball court next to a banana plantation where you’ll be ransacked by hundreds of dirty kids who want your love and affection, some of whom won’t be wearing pants. Giddy up cowboy (and cowgirl).
In all seriousness though, Matt, Jordan, I think I’m speaking for myself and everyone else in the organization when I say we’re here for you. I’d even go so far as to say we want to hear from you and help you whenever possible. I always will be looking to hear from you – one thing I’ve learned on my journey to Rwanda so far is that nothing makes me feel happier and more valued than when someone sincerely comes to me for help, so fire away. We’re all here for you and want to see you succeed from the executive team down. Welcome to the Shooting Touch family.
Creating Healthy Families in Rwanda
In keeping with the theme of family, there are a lot of my family members out here in Rwanda’s Eastern province that need help. This month, Chloe and I will be enrolling some of the neediest Shooting Touch program participants in the Rwandan government’s health insurance program. These are people who, since Matt McGinley and Lisanne launched the Shooting Touch/Mutuelle partnership last year, have seen their lives immeasurably changed for the better. Lower medical costs for our family here has led to fewer missed days of school and work and holistic improvement of the livelihoods in the communities we’ve become a part of.
Above: The 2016 Gala squad, minus a few, looking good. We look forward to adding Jordan and Matt to next years squad pic.
Watch the video in the link – the testimonials we’ve collected are pretty powerful and Chloe is looking realllll good with that baby on her arm. For $4, you can provide an individual with health insurance for the next 12 months. It could be the most impactful $4 you spend all year. Here’s the link to donate: DONATE