When I heard that the Rwandan girls’ championship handball team, from a poor village high in the mountains, had arrived at the National Semi-finals in the National Stadium with some players barefoot, I had to see them for myself. I took a moto-taxi 6 km up a winding and rutted road cut into the steep forest hillside. Even before I reached their school, Gitwa B, I came upon them practicing on their field, a sloping, dirt patch cleared from the forest. They were a motley bunch of boys and girls, in any sort of clothing and most barefoot. The familiar 3pm tropical downpour had just turned the pitch into a mix of sloppy mud and surface rock across which they raced, girls against boys, practicing the plays that had made both boys’ and girls’ teams Provincial Champions and made the girls National Champs as well. The girls had arrived in the capital, Kigali in wonder at the wide paved streets, towering glass buildings and then finally, the immense National Stadium filled with cheering fans. They came in worn, 5 year old uniforms. Half of them would have to play without shoes, as they had done all season. Just before their first playoff game, their coach brought shoes borrowed from other teams and out of the dugout they went – to their upset victories and championship.
These kids need equipment. They play for the love of it but we all know the determination of a sport champion is often the precursor of great achievement in later life. What further capacity will they realize when they have proper equipment? The volunteer coach, a primary school teacher, has for 5 years developed girls’ and boys’ juniors and girls’ and boys’ seniors. All 60 kids need proper field shoes, uniforms and the necessary assortment of balls, knee pads, and sport bras. The coach deserves a proper jacket with COACH on the back.
At $75USD/each we can put all in shoes and uniforms deserving of the champions they are: total for 1 team – $1,125 and for all 4 – $4,500. Their next tournament is scheduled for April. Can we make it happen?
The one who sends you this request is John Jordan, Rotarian from Victoria, BC, Canada. I have spent 2 months in each of the last 11 years building sustainable improvements to the lives of the poor in a rural, mountainous area of Rwanda. There are dozens of success stories from the beneficiaries served by my team of Rwandans who work here year around. Few, however, have been as stirring as the story of these kids, playing/fighting their way past all obstacles to be the best in their country. They are an inspiration to students all over Rwanda, especially the poor, to go for your dream regardless of difficulties.