"‘I’m still buzzing from today – please thank Mike for setting this up. He is doing an amazing job with those kids’ (after attending a Rugby for Change session at a PRU with Mike Henderson, one of our Development Coaches)"
'CRICKET IN SIERRA LEONE'
BY DAVID TURNER
An update from an Englishman based and living in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa, following C4C's visit in 2008.
Since Cricket for Change (C4C) came to Sierra Leone (SL) in 2008 when they set up ‘Street20’ cricket with the Sierra Leone Cricket Association (SLCA ) the game has continued to grow with support from local NGO Manager, Francis Mason and from charity worker, David Turner (DT), who has been living in Freetown for the last five years .
DT has continued the work with physically challenged (PC) youths, both male and female, in the east of Freetown where they live. DT notes that, at the moment there are around 35 people in 4 teams, with the majority of players being victims of war (which ended in 2002) or of polio. All of them show great enthusiasm in what is for them a very sport. As one PC boy said to DT; “We are now teaching young boys about cricket and that’s coming from a cripple”! (His words not mine, stresses DT!).
No monies exist for tournaments but DT's desire is to look at setting up a league of 5 teams and hopefully some long term sponsorship. But in a country where football is seen as the only sport to support, cricket is sometimes a hard sell.
STREET CRICKET IN SCHOOLS
DT is working with the SLCA in taking ‘Street cricket’ into schools in the east of Freetown which is poorest part of the city. DT says that work is also being done on taking game to girls and so for the first time cricket is being seen by the masses. Any future funding could help make cricket the second sport, after football.
Since war caused so many people to have suffered the experience of forced amputations, a local organization started to support them by setting up amputee football team and they have played football across world over the last three years.
DT says that we have introduced ‘Street Cricket’ to them over the last few months and already we have identified great interest in this easy to play form of cricket .
Working with a blind school in Freetown
Since C4C introduced the idea of ‘Blind Cricket’, DT regularly visits a blind school called, Milton Margi, named after first president of the country in Freetown. The school has around 50 girls and boys who live in school up to age of 18. David has seen the students playing the game, having a great day and boys and girls playing together. The desire is to take cricket to 3 other blind schools across the country but again dependent on funds.
A partnership has begun with the National Blind Association, which supports persons over school age. It is very sad to see men and women who cannot afford medical treatment for cataracts become blind but our small cricket intervention has given them so much hope.
SUPPORT FOR THE FUTRE
DT feels that more support is needed on coaching not so much technical but training on the use of cricket as tool for life, the type of skills training that Cricket for Change is renowned for delivering.
There also needs to be strong advice on how to build and develop structures to sustain the groups that DT has been talking about through competitions and leagues and perhaps spread similar experiences from Milton Margi school to four other blind schools across the country.
Overall, cricket in Sierra Leone is improving with the national team performing well in ICC tournaments and slowly more schools are playing the game.
DT feels that a further small visit from Cricket for Change, can act as catalyst again to find local and international support.
David’s desire and hope is summed up by him in this last paragraph;
“I have seen great love of playing sport and cricket but all activities are being supported by myself and I would like to set up street cricket association employing handicapped men and women to take street cricket to schools.
For them to be role models for other handicapped persons to show positive opportunities exist for them in a country where majority of population live on $1 a day and with an estimated 60 % unemployment.
Therefore, a job with just small incentive as a salary can help a whole family and really bring tangible changes to a person’s life”.
Watch more on C4C's visit in 2008 in the film below: