I’ve been interested in the Netball Development Trust tours since two players from our league went a few years ago. Unfortunately the tours have always clashed with work. I had planned to use this summer to do a charity building and education project abroad but thankfully the dates this year were in my holidays so I was very pleased to finally be able to go. I had previously been to both Uganda and Kenya with different charities, one helping with education and the other trying to improve lives for those in the rural villages. I therefore knew what to expect culturally but was excited to be able to use my passion for netball to work with the communities.
From the start it was all relatively easy. I contacted NDT through either facebook or email (I can’t remember) and was sent the dates, cost and information. The handbook included everything we needed to know about where we were going, a rough itinerary, things to take and important medical information. There was a ‘pre-tour meeting’ and I would encourage everyone to make every effort to attend this. This year’s groups were from all over the country and it was a chance for everyone to meet each other briefly and meet the organisers Julie and Monica and ask them any questions. This made our meeting at the airport far easier and less nerve-wracking as we knew who we would be spending the time with.
The flights were as expected – LONG, and going through customs in Uganda was almost as long as the flight! However we were met in Entebbe by smiling faces and sunshine!!
Obviously the main part of the tour was coaching netball to the local primary schools in the two towns selected for the programme this time in Uganda. We started in Fort Portal and then travelled to Jinja for the second week. The weekends were used for touristy things and visiting other projects. We were involved in the decisions for these but Jules and Mon had been before and therefore advised us of the best things to do to make the most of our time there. We walked around the crater lakes and caves and visited the King’s Palace in Fort Portal and in Jinja we went white-water rafting and on a nature trip up the Nile to its source. We also visited a special needs school in Kampala, a Blind School and Xuba’s activity day linked with another charity: ‘Clothe the Child’ in Jinja.
The accommodation was typical for the country. Even on my first visit I found it is far less basic than I had expected. Usually hot water, ‘normal’ flushable toilets and backpacker style rooms. We ate ‘in’ most evenings and in Fort Portal they cooked traditional Ugandan meals: a couple of starches from matoke (savory banana), posho, sweet potatoes, rice and spaghetti together with a meat sauce and/or a vegetarian one – curried beans or gravied peas both of which were surprisingly very good! In Jinja they cooked more western meals for us which was a shock to the system but welcome. Breakfast always consisted of fruit – far nicer than any in the UK, and toast and eggs. At Jinja Backpackers there were also animals to keep us amused particularly the monkeys playing in the trees and the two family pet dogs.
The netball coaching was amazing. It makes no difference what level of coach or player you are it is all about enthusiasm. We met in the evenings to discuss what we would be coaching the following day. It was all very basic as the main aim is to ensure the children have fun. We attempted to teach a few passes, the idea of footwork and the areas of the court each position was allowed. During game play we then added in Obstruction and Contact but on a very basic level – we just let them play. The children were happy and very keen and certainly didn’t need to be told to chase a ball! On the grass courts in Jinja the
children would all dive on the ball just like rugby which was awesome to see. Another notable thing was how they could all jump SO HIGH!!
We worked with local volunteers who were lovely and keen to learn and develop their own skills generally. Some of them were very good netballers themselves and were competitive when we played against them in an ‘exhibition match’. They and the school teachers were also very keen to win (particularly in Fort Portal) on tournament day and we did have to explain on a number of occasions occasions that the programme was for ‘new players’ and we were there to help them all not just to win the tournament!
Hopefully the local teachers and volunteer coaches will continue to enjoy the sport and develop the interest and skills of the children out there in the future.
This is certainly extremely worthwhile for anyone who enjoys netball, wants to help ‘make a difference’ and wants to experience a culture completely different to our own. It was an amazing tour: well- organised, awesome country, great people and shared aspirations to help those less fortunate than ourselves.