Volunteer Spotlight: Violah
Name: Violah Ahabwe
Hometown: Born in Kabale, near the border with Rwanda. Currently living in Kampala
Is this your first Street Child World Cup?
Yes, this is my very first time. It is also my first time leaving Uganda, so it has been a great experience for me from the day I left Uganda. It was a bit scary and I had mixed feelings. Excitement and fear because everything was new, from the airport to Dubai and then Chennai. I had to go through all the steps by myself which I am proud of. Thankfully the process of getting the visa and passport was actually easy. The aeroplane was exciting but also really cold! I had packed my jackets in my suitcase so I travelled without a sweater!
What does it feel like to come to a totally new country?
Chennai is really beautiful. I have enjoyed the food. I was among the first volunteers to come, and I was welcomed very well. I thought I would maybe experience racism and people looking at me but when I moved around it wasn’t like this. I went to a mall, went shopping, and went to visit street children in different communities of Chennai with the Amos Trust, visited the Karunalaya where we had cooking lessons and met children who I’m glad are also participating in the SCCWC. It was really amazing to see how I connected with people from different worlds. People wanted to take pictures with me.
There are parallels between these communities in Chennai and Uganda. People are really vulnerable, and I realised it’s not just Uganda where people are worse off. Street children share the same challenges and living conditions.
How did you hear about Street Child United and why did you get involved?
I heard through a friend who knew someone who had participated in Doha. I was interested, and I read about what they were doing to give a voice to street children who are not being seen. There is a way society looks at them, they don’t give them attention, it really touched by heart. I am very passionate about children. I contacted Street Child United and had a chat with Brian. He was very interested about what I do in Uganda, and then he said you will be part of us.
It’s close to what I do in Uganda which is mental health and psychosocial support with refugees. I wanted to see what happens on the other side of the world – is it the same? And also learn how to better my understanding of how they live and the challenges they go through, and also to meet the other facilitators.
What is your role?
I work in congress. It has been beyond my expectations. The sessions have been, I don’t know how to describe it, there is a way they have designed the programmes, long hour sessions, but the children are not bored. They are energised. The children are able to open up, they don’t feel the pressure of questions. You really have to be creative and make sure they don’t feel like it’s an interview. The sessions were designed in a way that the mood is always high and they can share experiences freely.
What is the best part of the Street Child Cricket World Cup?
The congress. I don’t know much about cricket. When I was by the pitch I was just beginning to learn about cricket and I couldn’t tell whether it’s a win or loss! But for congress, looking at the children share, come together, love, seeing the smiles. The late shows, the waterpark, seeing them enjoying and not being like ‘Hey, I’m a street child’. With the I am Somebody slogan, it was really portrayed in all that they were doing.
Do you think cricket will now become more popular in Uganda?
When I came here I didn’t know about the Ugandan team. I met them here. I think when I go back to Uganda I will have to get more engaged in their activities so that I can understand, or maybe even play cricket! I think it will become more popular. SCCWC is a global event. People in Uganda and other organisations that didn’t know how sports can help address mental health and challenges of children, I’m sure they are going to learn from the Ugandan team. I hope they will become interested in learning more.
What is your proudest achievement?
I have many! But one of them, the current one, is being able to make it to Chennai for the SCCWC. One thing I realised is that you need to get out of your comfort zone to know what you want. I had to save up and make sure I’m here. Going through all the processes without someone doing it for me. I am really proud of this.