Basketball comes to St Catherines School, Africa

Nancy Grew's amazing journey!!!!

UpdatedSunday March 12, 2017 byErin Young.

Dear Kingston Lakers Basketball League,

Thank you so much for the generous donation of basketballs and air pumps for rural schools in Kenya.  I know the positive impact these balls will have and I will be sure to document their delivery and use when I am in Kenya early next year, to share with you upon my return.  
 Here is a short promotional video which outlines some of the basic events of this story to this point.  It is quite exciting and in addition to what you see on the video, I have also been in contact with Stephan Barrie, the Queen’s Mens’ Basketball coach about a possible fundraiser and have spoken with Masai Ujiri’s personal assistant, Arsalan Jamil, regarding a possible collaboration with his “Giants of Africa Foundation”.  That last item is a long shot but I was thrilled that he was willing to speak with me and he even requested that I send him further information through email. 
Here is a bit of a background about what I am trying to do in the Siaya District of the Nyanza Province of Kenya.  I have been working with a number of small rural schools near Ramula and they are located about 44 km from Kisumu, the closest major centre.  I visited Kenya and Uganda in February of 2016.  I was traveling with a local charitable organization called CanAssist.  They provide funding for  infrastructure projects such as the construction of schools, drilling wells, providing water catchment facilities, purchasing fuel efficient wood burning stoves and the like.  Each donation benefits the entire community and CanAssist is making positive change happen.  The work is done locally, which benefits the local economy and provides much needed jobs for local workers.
Before I left for the trip I did a fundraiser at my school and using that money I bought school supplies and basketballs for three small schools, including St. Catherine’s School near Ramula.  At St. Catherine’s the sport has taken life and the grade 5/6 boys' team has started to compete through the passion and leadership of their teacher and coach, Mr. Donald Mark. What is astonishing, is that even though the boys had never played the game before, they have now qualified to play in a Championship match in Yala, Kenya on January 14th. I approached my school Board and requested leave to attend. They approved it! I am going to represent Truedell Public School, ETFO Limestone Local, the LDSB, Kingston Impact, Lakers Basketball and others who have helped to make this happen. This is Kingston's team. The hard working students trained with a ball purchased by Truedell. They wear Kingston Impact uniforms donated by our local club team and shoes and socks provided by ETFO Limestone Local. For many of the boys on the team, this is the first pair of shoes that they have worn.  Now, thanks to your kind donation they will have new balls to begin the next season.  They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe this is true. These boys are learning invaluable lessons which will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Other good news is that I have persuaded the school that girls can play too and they are developing a girls team for next year. ETFO has committed to providing socks and footwear for the girls should they follow through. I know they will.
As good as this story is, the fact remains that in order for the sport to thrive in the area the schools need proper courts.  Recently the St. Catherines team walked 50 km to train on a paved court.  At their school they play on a hard-packed dirt surface using a backboard and net attached to a wooden pole.  I would like to start by building paved courts at three or four schools, such that local teams can play competitively on a regular basis.  I would also like to see this program expanded to the whole region, but I am reminded by my African friends to go pole, pole (swahili for slowly, slowly)!
I have established contacts on the ground there and these are people that CanAssist has dealt with for many years.  They are hard working people who take great pride in their schools and they simply want their children to have the best possible opportunities.  I know that you agree with me that basketball is a great sport.  It is fun and relatively inexpensive to play.  It teaches invaluable life lessons and helps athletes to have hope and to be fit and to thrive.  
This is a true feel good story at a time when we all need one.  I hope you agree.  Thank you for your time and interest.
Nancy Grew