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Andrew Ference's African Diary, Day 4

by Andrew Ference / Boston Bruins
Andrew Ference recently traveled to Africa with "Right to Play." The Bruins D-man kept a diary on his journey and you can read his thoughts about the trip in this seven installment series.

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7Photo Gallery ]

Arriving by plane into the Serengeti was an adventure in itself, but as I sat copilot in a small 12-seat plane, I had a great view of the herds of wildebeest and zebras running across the plains.

On a sad note, three young children between the ages of one and six accompanied our group and were traveling on their own.  Later our pilot explained that he provided them a free flight to attend the funeral of their mother who recently passed away.  Unfortunately, there was no one at the airport to pick them up and they have been in my heart and mind for the rest of the day and I am sure for a long time into the future.

Arriving in the Mugumu district we were greeted by "Right to Play" volunteers Simon, Jen and Kate from Denmark, Denmark and Canada respectively. They have been here for the past year setting up the first project in a non-refugee rural area and are also working with the primary schools in the area and have been coaching locals to become the leaders of the project so they can take over sometime in the next six months.

This is the end goal of every "Right to Play" project -- employ volunteers for as long as it takes to establish a strong local leadership group and then hand over control to the trained coaches who provide the guidance for the children of their communities.

This area of "Right to Play" is strongly supported by the Grumeti fund, an organization that has helped reshape the local economy from relying on the trade of illegal bush meat to becoming a more diverse economy which includes tourism in the Serengeti park.

It remains an ongoing mission, but while there is still poaching, animal numbers have soared since the inception of this group and tourism has risen alongside the rate of the animals.

Happier still, the most organized project we have visited so far was this afternoon's primary school where we participated in many different "Right to Play" games and events.

The rural children are much more shy and reserved than the city kids because their exposure to the West and "Mzumu" (white foreigners) is very limited.

Mgumu smiles for the camera
It was hard to coax a smile out of them for pictures at first but the magic of digital photography provided a great solution.  Showing the kids the pictures of themselves proved to be a true crowd pleaser and soon enough kids wanting to see their digital reflection surrounded us.

The teachers later told us that might be the first time many kids have ever seen a picture of themselves which explains the excitement. 

In any case, we will be spending the next two days here before heading back to the city; I anticipate many great memories as we truly are in the heart of rural Africa, cow and goat traffic jams included!

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7Photo Gallery ]
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