|COURTESY OF JANE RUMBALL AND RIGHT TO PLAY|
Continuing with the theme of Olympic athletes giving back – see today’s story in the Star – rower Jane Rumball has just returned from a trip to see the humanitatrian group Right To Play in action in Uganda.
Rumball spoke about the journey last night at the Toronto Sport and Social Club’s winter awards, where she was presented with a cheque for more than $23,000 for Right To Play. Rumball, a medical student at U of T who is still training full tilt, raised more than $1,100 through an Erg-a-thon she held at the university just before she left and more than $1,700 overall.
Here are some excerpts from a story Rumball wrote on her Uganda experience:
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: Navikale 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.
I tried to take on this challenge and participate with my whole being. This meant fully participating in the games, taking time to talk to as many children as possible, and saying a few words to the children. I tried my best to teach them how to row in an eight (on dry land, with hand motions only!), alhough the eight turned into twelve and fifteen as more volunteers came forward! One of the times our coxswain (the smallest volunteer in the group) fell over laughing at the absurdity of it all. It made me wonder if our own coxswain (Olympic gold medallist Lesley Thompson-Willie) actually felt that way sometimes too!
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. 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.
Read her full story after the jump