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ICC Development Awards: Uganda gives back to volunteers in their time of need

ICC Development Awards

Uganda Cricket Association’s COVID-19 relief programme has been recognised as the ICC Cricket 4 Good Social Impact Initiative of the Year.

Last year, the Uganda men’s and women’s cricket teams, the Cricket Cranes and the Lady Cricket Cranes as they are known, were in training, getting ready for a busy year when everything suddenly changed.

On March 18, public gatherings were suspended in the country as a precaution, even as cases of a mysterious illness caused by a new coronavirus grew rapidly around the world. All sporting activity was also affected.  

Like so many others hit by the pandemic, the Cranes along with several cricket volunteers, such as coaches, umpires, curators and sports teachers, were suddenly confined to their homes. Worse, with everything under lockdown, their livelihoods were affected, and many were pushed to the brink of desperation. Some were left wondering where their next meal would come from.

To the Uganda Cricket Association (UCA), this was a time to give back.

Video ICC Development Awards 20 Apr 21
Cricket 4 Good Social Impact Initiative 2020: Uganda

Over the next few months, the Association supported hundreds of their players, volunteers and their families through a relief programme, which has now been recognised in the ICC Global Development Awards as the Cricket 4 Good Social Impact Initiative of 2020. 

To Bashir Badu, UCA chairperson, helping the community was “long overdue”. “We have so many people working pro-bono and those who are not so well to do in our fraternity, who have selflessly helped the association with the spread of the game. It was a great opportunity for the Association to appreciate them and extend its genuine feeling by supporting them with food, water and some kits,” he said.

“It was a way to show them that we appreciate their support and that we do not take them for granted for all they have done for the Association.”

The support began in March, with 20 top men’s players and 10 female players getting a cash transfer. Aid was extended to ground staff and then, in April, to to another 10 women, umpires and coaches. By May, around 100 games teachers and their families from schools associated with UCA development programmes were included.

By November, when economic activity resumed, around 1500 people had benefitted. Those around the Lugogo Stadium in Kampala have of course always been part of the cricket family and received help. But along with disadvantaged families in the Lugogo area, those in need from development hubs such as Soroti, Jinja, Kasese and Entebbe were also brought into the fold.

The relief was initially in the form of food and essentials such as soap and sanitary products. Some financial aid was offered as well. As the pandemic progressed and they waited for sports to resume, UCA also provided psychological support, which is ongoing, and invited people to take part in online courses on financial literacy.

The India Association of Uganda pitched in early on with food and essentials, before the cricket fraternity also came together to raise funds for some of the vulnerable people.

Reaching all those in need, in the face of serious health risks, was a massive challenge, but the fraternity has made it through. Hearing back from beneficiaries, be it a national player or a 60-year-old widow fending for a family of four, has made it all worthwhile.

In the long term, according to Martin Ondeko, UCA CEO, the relief programme showcases the values the Association holds dear. “It creates a positive image for the current and future sponsors, as they are glad to associate with Uganda Cricket Association,” he explained.

Badu added, “UCA does not only concentrate on spreading the game for the sake of spreading but on how the spread can effect positive change on people's lives and hence their love for the sport.” He acknowledged the work of all the staff and supporters in making the programme a success.

Today, while the pandemic situation remains precarious around the world, cricket is back. Domestic competitions for men and women were held, the men Namibia visited for a T20I series and 50-over series, and preparations are on for some big tournaments in 2021. And the volunteers are back on the green, doing what they love.

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