#TennisAid Uganda

Enjoy the recap of Martin and Abel third day in Uganda for their charity project, #TennisAid:

Up at 9. We must leave quickly to East Kololo, they share the football field with the kids of Shimoni.

Once again the football field is taken when we arrive and that let’s time to visit the school facilities and meet the Director.

We are about to start the class, and we are told that there will be many absences because the school sent home the kids who did not pay the quarterly fee of 20 dollars. Hard decision, nut it is not unusual.
We are starting the class and suddenly we realize 40 kids are there, in fact almost all are there.
They don’t understand English as well as the kids from the previous days, so our friends, the coaches of the Jouvin Child Sports Association give them our instructions. Anyway, we managed to understand each other, and 2 hours passed quickly.

While doing the class, we see the kids of the Shimoni school (both schools are only 100 meters away), they start shouting our names and greet us. Strong emotions to see these kids showing us their love.
Little by little, they’re coming, until they’re almost all there, with Ivan one of the school teacher who collaborates with Jouvin to communicate with the children through sign language. All are dressed in the clothes we gave them. The boys who received girls polos too, I give them boys shirts and the smiles they give me is priceless.

We teach them how to volley (something they had never done before), they enjoy it very much and learn lightning fast. The 90 minutes fly so fast, but they know we’ll be back and say goodbye tenderly.
Suddenly a very young child about 3 years old appears. He is the brother of Leticia, one of the girls from the school for whom I have a particular weakness. Her brother is not deaf, but he’s here with his father because Leticia has finished the school year and can go home but she stayed this week to attend our tennis lessons. I find a size 4 shirt in my backpack and give it to her little bro. I will never forget these moments in my life.

We leave on a motorcycle and the adventure is unforgettable. 3 on the bike, the traffic seems to have no order (there are no traffic lights), total chaos, but we have fun at every intersection.
We go to the Mandela Stadium, built about 10 years ago. A stunning place that is only used when the National Football Team (who happened to be training in an adjacent field) play. There’s a multi-sports complex and two tennis courts Danniel our friend is trying to manage. But like everywhere, the bureaucracy, ignorance of the leaders and disregard for having excellent facilities left to oblivion, this process takes time and money. It would be a real pity that the project would not be approved.
On the way back we passed the campus, where the cricket team trains, and then we go to the High Performance Sports Center which has huge facilities and where many high level athletes train in various disciplines. We also pass by the Lugogo Tennis Complex, one of the most prestigious clubs in Uganda, where they have played Davis Cup and ITF tournaments, with a very nice center court with covered stands, but that is really nothing more than a neighborhood club.

Read more about #TennisAid.

#TennisAid Uganda day 2

We left at 8am to be on time at the Shimoni Primary School. Classes started at 10 but we had about 45 minutes by foot and then had to prepare the nets, the marks, since the court was a football field.

The first lesson was on Sunday afternoon, but this time it was on Monday morning, so there was a lot of traffic and cars, thousand of bus and boda-boda, motorbikes carrying people for 1 dollar. All this made this walking down the street (no sidewalks) an indescribable experience.

We arrived at the school and discovered that the field was occupied, a football team was training there. Our friends took us to tour the facility, we were introduced to the sports manager and to the school director who – like the day before at the Ntinda school – asked us to sign the visitors book, and put our names, address and a comment on our visit.

We started the class and divided the group into 2 groups: 18 kids worked with Abel and 24 with me. Both groups warmed up and then worked in small groups. The ease, speed and discipline they showed in each activity kept surprising me.

I keep thinking about the huge amount of times we tell our students again and again how to do certain things that should be automations, but these kids just needed ONE indication and obedience was absolute and instantaneous.

#TennisAid Uganda day 2

I keep thinking about the huge amount of times we tell our students again and again how to do certain things that should be automations, but these kids just needed ONE indication and obedience was absolute and instantaneous.

The class was scheduled for a 3 hour session, but we said that was too long for the kids. Coaches told us that these kids so enjoy playing that it would be actually too short. After an hour of play, some asked for permission to eat something, while the others who had no food kept playing on their own.
Less than 3 minutes after, almost all the kids were back with racquet in hand as they considered that stopping to eat was just a waste of time. For 3 hours we shared exercises, games, jokes, photos and we would have wanted to give more of our time and effort.

We proceeded to deliver the clothes we brought as gifts. It was without a doubt the strongest moment of the day. The joy, gratitude and hugs of children were so exciting that it was really difficult to hold back tears. And then, to top it off, one of the girls asked to speak in front of everyone, we ordered silence and she said:

“Thanks coaches for these gifts. We are very grateful. I would also say: when a teacher teaches something you have to pay attention. Because if you don’t, you don’t learn. That’s what I mean.”

Simple and exciting. Even now, I remember it and my eyes are filled with tears.

After the farewell, we undertake our 45 minutes walk, which we do in silence. Not because we were tired but to assimilate all we had lived and felt that day, and we were really touched.
We returned home really late, almost midnight. I went to bed at 1, while Abel edited videos until 4am.

Also read:
#TennisAid Uganda: the story of Martin Rocca
#TennisAid Uganda: the project
#TennisAid Uganda: the funding
#TennisAid: the arrival in Uganda
#TennisAid Uganda: the Ntinda School for the Deaf

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