Most countries get corporate sponsorships to pay the way for their athletes, and some teams even get government funding. A lot of players fundraise on their own to get here, while others receive financial support from their parents.
Not only is Team Kenya the first African team to compete at a lacrosse world championships, but they also are one of the only teams who does not receive any financial backing from their government.
Kenya team members at Lansdowne Place with 101-year-old visitor from Cornwall. Ontario they met
So how were they able to battle this lack of funding to become the first African team to compete on the world stage without a dime of government support? Well their coach and founder, Storm Trentham, played a key role in that.
The team—whose mission statement is “To give hope and opportunity to underprivileged young African women, through the power of international lacrosse, to achieve a better future for themselves and their communities”—had a couple of major backers but most of the financial support for this team comes from Storm herself, her company, her friends and in particular “from my mum” the Wales native added.
Coach Trentham has dreamed of this day since 2015 and now her hard work has paid off. Her dream has become her reality. The team has arrived in here in Peterborough, Canada, making history on the international stage.
The team, which is staying at Lakefield College, has already witnessed the Canadian hospitality they had heard so much about when the shoes they ordered arrived in U.S. sizes instead of U.K. Without shoes, they can’t play and once word got out, a few members of the community banded together to make sure they all had a brand new pair of shoes to wear.
The team in downtown Peterborough
New shoes in hand, the girls were ready to hit the town, and on Sunday, July 28th, they loaded into their rental vans and hit the road to experience some “firsts” in Peterborough and surrounding area.
Nateure’s Plate was first on the list where the girls, who aren’t fans of salad—at all—were treated to some vegan meals. The meat eaters didn’t mind the meals at all, although one player was heard exclaiming “I don’t like the taste of yellow.” Fair enough.
Next it was off to Lansdowne Place for a little shopping. None of the girls had ever been to a mall before and they were pretty excited—especially when they each received a $10 gift card to any store in the mall. Once inside, the first stop was at Tim Horton’s where the girls were all given gift cards. The immediate thought for most of them was, “We can use these at the airport.” (We can all relate to that.)
The team at Tim Horton’s Lansdowne Place
One of the neat moments at the mall was when a 101-year-old lady from Cornwall, Ontario needed a seat to eat her ice cream. The team moved so she could take a seat with them, and the smiles of the team and the woman lit up the mall (scroll up to see picture).
Next, it was the main event: upstairs to Dollarama in the mall. The girls had their gift cards but were also given an extra $5 from the team to buy something for their sisters. Excitement filled the air as they filled their carts with a random assortment of goodies.
A beaming Maureen in her shades shopping at Dollarama. Maureen has 7 siblings back home.
Cups, dishes, sunglasses and electronics were a big hit with the team but there also some items you would never guess. These girls don’t have freezers back home but one player wanted to buy her sister an ice tray. Why? “Because it’s nice and she’ll like it.” Of course. Their innocence just melts your heart.
The girls after shopping at Dollarama
The shopping was done but we obviously couldn’t leave the mall without riding the train …that was pretty fun. After a few complimentary rides from the conductor, they grabbed their many Dollarama bags, loaded them into the rental vans, and were off to the Whistle Stop in downtown Peterborough.
Whistle Stop is the home of a million different poutines. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but they do have well over a hundred. Basic poutine consists of fries, cheese curds and gravy. “What is gravy”? “Nobody likes cheese” …this should be interesting.
With hundreds of different poutines on the menu, what did everyone order? “Is there chicken and rice?” No girls, we’re here for poutine. “OK, fries with ketchup, please.” Solid choice.
The team at Whistlestop Cafe
They said goodbye to Whistlestop and immediately hit the highway, off to see the Peterborough Lakers play a road game against the Cobourg Kodiaks. This would be their first box lacrosse game.
The team was honoured at the start of the game, took part in the ceremonial faceoff and also performed a choreographed dance for the crowd of 1,500. Pretty awesome.
When the game began the girls yelled and cheered as they watched in awe …they also participated in a rare wave that started with them before making its way around the entire arena.
The most exciting moment came when Victory was called out onto the floor for the Kodiaks second intermission game where the winner gets a team autographed T-shirt. She was blindfolded and placed on the playing surface where she had to find the mascot who was also out there …she dominated.
The team couldn’t leave the Cobourg Community Centre without going to the facility’s second pad to check out the ice rink—something none of them had ever seen. They didn’t have helmets so they couldn’t go on but Maureen still managed to sneak out there. Shhhh, don’t tell.
It would be remiss not to mention the two locals who will be with Team Kenya during their entire journey and with them every step of the way: their assigned liaisons, Rose Powers and Ashlee Aitken (pictured below).
Liaisons Rose Powers and Ashlee Aitken with team
Watching these two amazing women interacting with the team was a moment on its own. Not only are they great people but they are two of the most caring and companionate women you will ever come across. Whether it’s Rose’s energy and sense of humour or Ashlee’s motherly love, this pair has been going above and beyond to ensure that Kenya Lacrosse and these girls feel right at home.
It was an amazing day with some amazing people. Any problems you think you have in your life will quickly disappear after a few minutes with these girls. Despite the hardships they’ve endured, and will have to go back to, their positivity and genuine smiles always shine through. Without even trying to, they’ll make you look at life, and the world, a lot differently.
It was an amazing, informative experience to say the least—this group of girls truly is special. —guest post and photos by Scott Arnold