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Andrew Ference's African Diary, Day 5

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 ]

I can truthfully say that today was, culturally, the most amazing day of my life.

The chance to be invited into the home of a villager of Nyamburi is something that cannot be bought from any safari company and has not found the pages of a travel guidebook. 

Through the local connections and relationships of the "Right to Play" volunteers, our morning was spent as guests of one such villager, Mr. Pius Cha Cha, his five wives and fifteen children.

To say I am glad of the presence of our documentary crew to record these memories would be a vast understatement.

Pius Cha Cha's family and home
We toured his compound, which consisted of many mud hut buildings, an enclosure for his cattle, and many medicinal and fruit trees.  Each wife and her children had their own hut as did Pius but they shared a common eating area and really appeared to be one big happy family.  They were self-sufficient by growing their own fruit and vegetables along with their own medicines and meat.

A short ride away along the bumpiest most rut infested road you can imagine, he guided us to an area of the forest where men were cutting lumber for the village, and beyond that, a group of farmers plowing the land behind their bulls. 

While we were there, we also had two encounters with a killer, the green mamba snake. A strike would have killed us within a minute. Luckily, however, it was equally scared of us and took off the other way with our crazy African host running after it trying to kick it! 

A visit to his village provided us with a show of some local dancing and also mock Massai fighting with spears.  We were welcome as very rare foreign visitors and the hospitality was a great gift that our group will appreciate for many years.

As we rounded the corner on our way back from the village, we came across a lot that was once a large plot of land full of junk. But instead of the junk we had expected there were swings, basketball nets, a soccer pitch and a netball field.  And, even more importantly, there were hundreds of children taking part in Africa's Day of the Child, a celebration put on by "Right to Play" involving 8 schools from around the district. The boys took part in a soccer tournament and the girls did the same in the sport of netball.

What seemed to be the entire community surrounded the field and supported the children for the entire day of play.

The boys played intense games of soccer, not letting the fact that they were barefoot slow them down.  The girls game was even more fierce, as they were not giving up an inch of room while jockeying for position around the netball basket. 

Each game saw a recipient of the "Fair Play" award, and the winners took home new notebooks and a soccer ball to share amongst their school.

At the game's conclusion the community closed into a tight circle on the soccer pitch to watch a number of performances by local groups.

There was dancing by local villagers, a group of singing children, and also a drama performed by some teenagers.

What made these performances so special was the messages that they delivered.  The singers sang about HIV/AIDS protection, staying in school and the power of sport.

For me, this day truly represented the power of "Right to Play."

It mobilized an entire community to participate together in a day of sport and education.  A whole generation of children in this town will grow up learning lessons of cooperation, conflict resolution and confidence through sport.

We ended the day on a pretty cool note by joining two boys who were playing keep-away with a soccer ball (rolled up pieces of plastic bags).  It was every man for himself between the four of us, that is until children from every corner of the town came rushing to join in, as if they could smell the scent of fun.

I wondered to myself if this would happen in North America...

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