Rackets for Africa

8 July 2019, by Chrissie Martin

If you’ve been missing Pat Prosser on court recently, she’s been visiting communities in Rwanda as part of the Compassion organisation – a trip that involved trekking and cycling and meeting plenty of individuals and families in the country that are benefitting from the sponsorship scheme.

Chris Hampton, our club coach, also donated rackets for the children in Muhanga, and many members of the club donated to the organisation.

Read Pat’s story here:

Rwanda – the country of a thousand hills and a million smiles. Twenty five years ago the world looked on in horror as years of ethnic tension culminated in the Genocide where nearly a million Tutsis of all ages and sympathetic Hutus were killed over a hundred day period.  Many alive today are the only survivor in their family. The recovery has been remarkable with healing of ethnic tensions and although poverty is extreme by our standards, everywhere one is greeted by smiles from people working hard together in the fields or on the roads as they rebuild their country. Farming and construction are the main occupation with coffee and tea the main exports.

Compassion is a worldwide organisation which aims to release children from poverty through sponsorship (£25 per month) of individual children and in return one receives regular letters and updates by email. Currently 86,500 children attend one of 402 projects in Rwanda. Here they and their families have additional education opportunities, healthcare, supplemental nutrition, health- education, life-skills training and a safe environment to play. Many graduates from the sponsorship scheme volunteer in the projects to help the next generation. Those studying psychology are particularly able to help the many suffering from the psychological trauma in the aftermath of the genocide and the AIDs epidemic of the 80s and 90s. Some of us were in tears as they shared their stories of survival with us. Pregnant women, particularly the unmarried are looked after in the child survival programme.

I went with a group of about 40 and after a very moving visit to the genocide memorial in Kigali we travelled to near Muhanga where we visited several projects and were welcomed into homes. Most families live in one or two roomed houses with communal squat loos, an outside tap and small kitchens with charcoal stoves. On Sports Day we welcomed over a hundred children and had the opportunity to meet and eat lunch with children sponsored by ourselves and our friends. The tennis rackets proved very popular and I am sure will be well used and shared. The trip culminated with a Challenge Day when some ran or cycled a half or full marathon and some of us did a long 12 hour trek starting at 2am. (I managed 58km!) We were welcomed all along the route with smiles, waves and hugs and on my last lap I was accompanied by groups of young children walking long distances home from school. Everywhere we were greeted with traditional Rwanda dancing and encouraged to join in. Thank you to all in the tennis club who donated money and to Chris Hampton who donated the tennis rackets. If anyone wants to sponsor a child then please let me know – changing the life of a whole family can be a very rewarding experience.

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