The opening of Rwanda’s first proper cricket stadium has brought fresh hope for a brighter future in the country.
The stadium was the vision of former British Army officer, businessman and cricket enthusiast Christopher Shale, who recognised the role that the sport could play in Rwanda’s reconciliation following the 1994 genocide.
He was heavily involved in community work and witnessed the growth in enthusiasm for cricket and the severe lacking of decent facilities in the country. Christopher had just begun working on an idea to build a much-needed home of cricket in Rwanda when he died unexpectedly in 2011, leaving his son Alby to take over the reins.
Alby co-founded the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF) with a view to bringing prosperity and opportunity to Rwandans through cricket.
To support the launch of Rwanda’s first proper cricket stadium, Yorkshire Tea took cricket coaching to some of the country’s top tea estates.
In October this year, he realised his father’s dream – the grand opening of the new £1m facility in Gahanga, on the outskirts of Kigali, was marked with an inaugural Twenty20 tournament featuring eight teams from Africa and the UK.
Among them was Team Yorkshire Tea, a group of amateur cricketers made up of staff from the brand’s headquarters in Harrogate and three of its tea estates in Rwanda. Earlier this year, the brand signed a three-year deal to support the work of the RCSF, expanding its support of grassroots cricket outside of the UK for the first time at the birthplace of some of its best tea.
Yorkshire Tea, owned by Taylors of Harrogate, now buys more than 15 per cent of all Rwanda’s tea, which is a key ingredient in the brand’s premium and popular Yorkshire Gold blend. As well as playing in the opening tournament, Team Yorkshire Tea used their time in Rwanda to kickstart cricket coaching for the Yorkshire Tea cup – an inter-tea estate tournament it hopes to establish in collaboration with Cricket Builds Hope, the newly evolved RCSF.
Ian Brabbin, Head of Tea at Yorkshire Tea, said: “Rwanda grows some of the best teas in all of Africa and we’ve been supporting projects over the past decade to improve lives and livelihoods of farmers. Taking part in the opening tournament was an amazing opportunity to unite with members of tea estates and celebrate the work of the RCSF.
Picking tea leaves in Rwanda
“The establishment of cricket on our tea estates is in the early stages but we do believe it will make a difference and we’ll be working closely with Cricket Builds Hope in the coming years to integrate the sport across our estates.”
Enjoying a game of cricket
Encouraging social change
But the work is far from over. Following the opening of the stadium, Cricket Builds Hope will lead programmes to integrate cricket across Rwanda as a tool for social change. Rwanda’s women’s cricket team captain Mary Maina and team mate Cathia Uwamahoro will lead programmes to introduce cricket to local refugees, with a particular focus on young women. Yorkshire Tea will collaborate with the NGO to visit and coach cricket within the tea estates of Rwanda.
Follow Yorkshire Tea’s cricket support at yorkshiretea.co.uk/cricket