On Friday, 4th August 2023, I was privileged to be part of a group of volunteers from the Community Outreach Program (COP) who set out for Kitui for a Sports event. The much-anticipated Sports day, set to be held on 5th August, was to mark the culmination of Project Tai. In the four years of its running, Project Tai has impacted 4,000+ high school students in Kitui through mentoring. This event would bring together 650+ students from the ten schools under the project for a day of friendly competition and lots of fun.
The journey to Kitui and subsequently our first night there was very loud. The good kind of loud that you experience when COP volunteers come together. We are a lot that enjoys good conversations, lots of banter and belly laughs, punctuated by amateur singing-along to music. We had a briefing after dinner explaining the next days’ activities, during which we all got to choose the sports we would be volunteering in. I chose Netball because, well, this is the only sport listed that I had remotely played while in high school. My goal was simple; to act like I know what I’m doing and eventually learn enough about the sport to actually have a good time and above all, ensure that the students have a positive experience. I was armed with curiosity, willingness to learn, and enough mobile data, because when in doubt, Google is always your companion.
We were up early on Saturday and the excitement in the air was almost palpable as we had breakfast and got into our blue COP reflector jackets. We were dropped off at St. Ursula Girls’ High School where the Netball games would take place. There was a quick round of introductions with the teachers in charge and a briefing on what they would require help with. I was assigned the task of taking down scores for each team, which, in case you’re wondering, is not rocket science so I actually knew what I was doing.
There were six games scheduled for the day. This would allow all four teams to play with each other and afterwards the overall winner would be determined by the highest number of scores cumulatively. The girls were all visibly excited and nervous in equal measure and it was clear that this was a day they had been waiting for; the proverbial Red-Letter day that we all wrote about in our primary school compositions.
Although I knew I was going to enjoy myself, I had under-estimated just how exciting these games would be. It was easy to tell that the girls from all four teams were not only talented but had also put in the hours in honing their skills. Match after match, the field came alive with so much energy and I could not help but marvel at the precision with which the ball was passed from player to player. It was truly heartwarming to watch the girls’ excellent team work as well as how they hyped each other and were each other’s biggest fans.
While all the teams present were remarkable, the team from St. Ursula Girls’ High School brought their A-game and left onlookers mesmerized. They won all their games by a landslide, emerging as the overall winners. I later learnt that this team was made up of form four girls, which made it even more impressive that amidst the stress that preparing for KCSE examinations is, they were still able to train hard and deliver such a wonderful performance. We were also informed that they had recently qualified and played in the County games and it was easy to see how.
The Netball games were concluded by lunch time and we moved to St. Charles Lwanga School where the rest of the games were taking place as well as the Awards Ceremony. As I was done with my main tasks for the day, I got to walk around watching other matches including Basketball, Soccer, Rugby and Volleyball and later on in the day, Athletics. While walking around, I bumped into some familiar faces from the Netball games and we got to chatting about academics, sports and everything that pertains to the high school experience. It was wonderful to pick up how playing sports was such a confidence-booster for these students. The field was the one place where some of these students truly came alive and where they felt seen.
The day ended with the Awards Ceremony during which the teams that had emerged winners were awarded with medals and trophies. It was so beautiful to see how happy and proud they were as they held their trophies and wore their medals and ear-to-ear smiles. At the end of the day, everyone, by virtue of training hard and giving it their all, had emerged a winner.
We left for Nairobi on Sunday with my social battery running low but my heart bursting at its seams from how full it was.
This article was written by Stacy Chemutai.
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