Four members of Surrey CCC staff were out in Rwanda in October, working to assist the development of cricket in the country as part of the Club’s ongoing partnership with cricket development charity, Cricket Builds Hope (CBH).
Jack Colyer (Groundstaff), Matt Williams (Operations), Chris Morris (Surrey Cricket Foundation) and Josh Macvean (Conferences and Events) spent eight days in Kigali, working at the Gahanga Cricket Stadium, a ground that was opened in 2017 after a fundraising campaign led by CBH and supported by Surrey CCC.
The group used their expertise to work with the stadium’s day-to-day team, fixing machinery, rolling new pitches and offering advice on the continued development of the ground. Morris also worked with the Rwanda Cricket Association, offering advice on the continued growth of cricket throughout the country.
They also assisted in the restarting of a Women’s Empowerment Programme run at the ground by CBH. The programme was previously funded by Comic Relief and won an ICC Award for its work in 2020. After the original funding ran out, the programme was able to restart after Surrey agreed a further three-year commitment with CBH to make the charity its official overseas charity partner.
The staff trip was the second this year, with the Deputy Head of Groundstaff Martin Biggin and Head of Community Jon Surtees also heading out to Kigali in January to work with the local team and offer assistance. Both trips also saw the Club make significant donations of kit, equipment and training wear. Some of this is used by the national team with other parts of it being distributed around cricket development efforts throughout the country.
Growth of Cricket in Rwanda
Cricket is now the fastest growing sport in Rwanda, with the women’s team qualifying for the first-ever U19 Women’s World Cup earlier this year, where they beat both Zimbabwe and the West Indies, showing huge potential for the future and asserting their place as the second best U19 Women’s team in Africa. During the competition, Rwanda played against England U19, the first time the two countries had ever played each other.
The Men’s side is currently in the final stages of preparation for the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier, which will be staged in Namibia later this year. After qualifying from their sub-group for the first time, beating Botswana, Saint Helena, Malawi, the Seychelles and Mali, they will take on the hosts as well as Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria, competing for two spots in the tournament, which will be held in the USA and West Indies next summer.
There are now 24 cricket clubs in Rwanda and the game is played in more than 100 Rwandan schools. It is equally popular with both girls and boys as Rwandans have never considered it a gendered sport. Given its lack of history in the country before 1994, it is also considered an excellent vehicle for the country’s ongoing reconciliation process following the events of 1994.
History of Cricket in Rwanda
Originally a Belgian colony with no cricketing culture, the sport arrived in Rwanda in the late 1990s, brought back by Rwandans who had been displaced by the genocide that took place in the country in 1994. They had taken refuge in countries including Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, where they learnt about the sport.
Returning home, they wanted to continue playing but discovered there was only one ground in the country, with poor facilities. In 2011, Cricket Builds Hope was founded with a mission to raise money to build a new ground in Kigali.
Surrey partnered with CBH in 2015, donating money to assist in the construction of the ground – located in Gahanga in the south-east of Kigali – and helping create further links between Rwandan cricket and the ICC. The Club has also teamed up with CBH to host an annual Carol Service at St. Mark’s Church in Kennington. The ground opened in 2017, with a celebrity match that saw players including Michael Vaughan and Sam Billings forced to don Surrey kit whilst playing at the stadium!
Since 2017, significant work has seen the original ground transformed, with a worn astroturf pitch replaced by a fresh grass wicket – and a second pitch built at the new site in Gahanga. Cricket Builds Hope also partnered with Comic Relief to deliver female empowerment programmes in Gahanga and with Yorkshire Tea, to deliver coaching and competitions in the tea estates that operate in the mountains above Kigali.
Speaking after the most recent Surrey trip, Will Hammond, Project Director of Cricket Builds Hope, said: “I could not have been more impressed by the attitudes, knowledge, adaptability of the Surrey staff and the way they interacted with everyone here. The value that they brought in such a short time is hard to convey.
“Matt, Josh, Jack and Chris were a credit to Surrey CCC and its culture. One of the objectives of our partnership is to share the knowledge and expertise that exists at Surrey CCC for the benefit of Rwandan cricket and communities, and their visit served as a shining example of how international collaborations can uplift communities and promote the growth of our great sport.”
Jon Surtees, Head of Community, Public Affairs and Projects at Surrey CCC, added: “It’s so great to see the positive impact that trips like this can have, both out in Kigali and back here at The Kia Oval.
“As one of the most storied and well-known cricket clubs in the world, Surrey CCC are excited to be helping drive the growth of our wonderful sport – particularly in places where there isn’t a historic cricket culture and people are just starting to love the game.”
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