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November 30, 2012
After the heartbreak of losing the Women's World Twenty20 final to Australia you could forgive England spinner Holly Colvin for wanting to take some time away from the sport. But less than week after the four-run defeat in Colombo, Colvin packed her bags and headed off to Kenya to take on a very different kind of cricketing challenge.
Colvin took two wickets before England Women failed to chase 143 against Australia but took her mind off the disappointment by joining a team of six other volunteers from all walks of life - including this journalist, a college student and a financial analyst - for a two-week trip with Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB), a UK charity using cricket to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.
During an emotional and inspiring fortnight 56 new coaches were trained and more than 3,000 children took part in sessions from inner-city orphanages to schools in remote areas accessible only by four-wheel drive.
"There were a lot of tears shed after the World T20 final defeat but coming to Kenya was the perfect distraction. It gave everything perspective and reminded me that it is only a game," Colvin said. "Kenya was an incredible, humbling experience and one I will never forget. The people, the atmosphere, and seeing how much the children loved it was absolutely amazing."
Thousands of children were given their first taste of cricket in Nakuru, Kenya's fourth-largest city, and the rural area of Laikipia - including 500 in one particularly epic session.
"I think cricket can be a huge tool in educating people about HIV/AIDS," Colvin said. "If you sit kids down and talk to them about it in a classroom it can go in one ear and out of the other. But to do it through cricket it really sticks in their minds."
CWB was founded in 2005 and first embarked on a seven-month trip coaching from Cairo to Cape Town. The charity works in partnership with the ICC's Think Wise partnership, which has been run in collaboration with UNAIDS and UNICEF since 2003, who will use World Aids Day on December 1 to raise awareness around the cricketing world with players wearing red ribbons.
CWB has delivered 37 projects in seven different African countries. Together with HIV/AIDS awareness, the project aims to empower women and promote equal opportunities, starting with boys and girls playing alongside each other. This brought Colvin one of her highlights of the trip, during the final of the schools festival in Nakuru.
"This young girl called Faith clean bowled a boy twice her size and all her team-mates came rushing up to her," Colvin said. "She wasn't just a girl making up the team she was an integral part of it. She was respected by the boys in the team and they all just looked like they were in it together.
"It reminded me of when I first started playing cricket. I was just one of the boys and treated like that, as equal. It was incredible to see that happen out in Kenya and I really think it would tackle some of the problems there."
CWB has also played a key role in supporting Cricket Kenya's efforts to develop the game at grass roots level and has worked alongside ex-internationals Peter Ongondo and David Asiji. The charity may also have inspired a future Kenyan star. Quinta Aoko had never played cricket before CWB's trip in 2011, but made her debut for the full women's team earlier this year aged just 15.
With the continuing commitment of volunteers, CWB wants to continue to inspire children to take up the sport and gain vital education of a disease that an estimated 1.5 million live with in Kenya alone. The charity is committed to delivering projects in at least five African countries on a twice-yearly basis and in 2013, they will be returning to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana and Cameroon.
To find out more about the charity, including how to volunteer, visit www.cricketwithoutboundaries.com.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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