Thursday, May 07, 2009

A moving story of a Canadian athlete visiting a malnourished child in Uganda

Canadian Olympic rower Jane Rumball is involved in the charity Right To Play. Part of her duties as ambassador takes her to under developed countries to visit with the kids that the charity helps. "Right To Play" uses sports as a tool for development in the children.

Jane Runball related her recent visit to Uganda to columnist Bruce Hallihan of The Daily Gleaner.

"The scene was one I will never forget: crowds of joyful, boisterous African children laughing and clapping, giggling at the awkward muzungu Olympic athlete who couldn't match their rhythm to save her life!

"It all happened under the unbelievably blue Ugandan sky, with rich red earth and lush greenery surrounding. It was surreal. For a moment, we probably all forgot where we were: Nakivale refugee camp, home to almost 50,000 displaced persons who had to flee their countries in order to survive. Immense poverty, rampant diseases, and unspoken stories of conflict.

"Nothing here seemed to faze the children, though ... for a brief moment in time, everyone at the school in Nakivale forgot about conflict, hunger, poverty, and sickness. Instead, we laughed, danced, got rich African soil all over our faces and bodies."

Rumball wrote more, but this part stuck with me the most:

"At a particularly difficult stop along the way in Nakivale, I found a little friend who I will never forget. She was a beautiful but severely malnourished girl who held tightly onto my hand throughout all the games.

"She had severely infected bumps on the side of her head, but still tried to dress up with earrings that looked like they were fashioned out of paper clips. Once she realized that she could hold my hand, she started slowing to rub her face on my arm.

"For a brief moment I wanted to pull away for fear of somehow getting that infection transmitted to my own skin ... but then I realized that most people probably do draw back and make her feel bad.

"I wanted to be different and let her just stay put beside me for the rest of the session," Rumball said. "It ended up being a very special moment for both of us, I think. She started to get into the games and laughed and danced like the other children around her. "Right To Play's tagline is 'when children play, the world wins'. Most of us would probably agree with that intuitively, but it came to life for me in the Ugandan refugee camp called Nakivale."

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