|Eva bats in a match in the Thika slum as Ed Williams keeps wicket during a Cricket Without Boundaries project in Kenya
It was a single encounter among hundreds. But it was the one that made me realise that quitting London life had been worth it.
It was the day we met little Eva.
I was coaching in the Kenyan slum of Thika with my charity, Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB). It was there I found a frail girl in the final stages of AIDS.
For some time Eva had been too ill to get out of bed, but on this one day, she was able to hit the winning runs on a rubbish-strewn and parched land.
"The link between cricket and HIV/AIDS awareness may not be immediately obvious, but we found that coaches are in a unique position to help"
Ed Williams, Cricket Without Boundaries
Her smile lit up the project and convinced us of the power cricket could have in helping those with HIV/AIDS.
Fast forward five years and CWB has coached more than 15,000 children and trained over 1,500 adults to carry on our work – even Massai warriors have been taught the forward defensive stroke!
We have delivered 20 projects and have quotes of support from people like former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, cricketer Andy Flintoff, actor Michael Palin and the pop group Keane.
All of this has been achieved by a staff of unpaid volunteers and the enthusiasm and dedication of scores of UK coaches.
It all began in 2005. We set off from Lord's cricket ground in London with CWB's first project ahead of us.
Cairo to Cape Town
This was no part-time indulgence. I was one of three people (Andy Hobbs and Chris Kangis being the other two) who had given up their jobs to try and do something extraordinary – namely take ourselves and the game we loved from Cairo to Cape Town.
Over the next seven months we did just that. We travelled on a motley collection of battered buses, taxis, bikes and even the occasional Chinese train.
We encountered international cricketers, politicians, crooks, aid workers, diplomats, teachers and, most importantly, thousands of inspirational children.
AIDS awareness is also central to our work.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone there are more than 22 million people living with HIV and a large number of those infected are children.
We hope cricket can play a part in protecting future generations. The link between cricket and HIV/AIDS awareness may not be immediately obvious, but we found that coaches are in a unique position to help.
They can and do impart a message of staying healthy within a fun and trusting environment.
The start of this year will see us returning to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and we will be following up further projects in the Autumn.
New coaches are being trained all the time, children are being introduced to cricket and everyone is learning how the sport we love can raise HIV/AIDS awareness.
We hope 2011 is going to be another great year as Cricket Without Boundaries continues to live up to its name.
Ed Williams is a barrister who lives in London. Six years ago he helped set up the charity Cricket Without Boundaries – a project promoting sport and education in Africa. For more details go to their website - www.cricketwithoutboundaries.com.
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Source: Al Jazeera