Fridays here in Binga finish as early as 2pm in the office. During the hottest part of the day the volunteer group with partner organisation, Basilwizi, expected a leisurely walk home along our usual route beside the quiet road, cars occasionally passing crammed full of people making their way home.
A young boy dressed in his school uniform caught us up as our feet sank in the sand which encompasses the popular shortcut. He took an instant interest in the rugby ball which he passed back and forth to UK volunteer Michael, carrying a beaming smile on his face. Before long we reached the road which winds round for 2km before reaching our accommodation. To our right lay open tarmac with hardly a soul in sight, to our left came excited screams followed by a small stampede of children thrilled by the presence of a ball.
Within minutes we were surrounded by smartly dressed boy and girls aged between 7 and 12 years. Greetings were exchanged in both Tonga and English, which could just be heard over the continuous giggling and wide spread smiles. The few who appeared shy, watched intently from the side lines, passing quiet comments to their friends. It was evident that language, age and gender were unimportant when it came to the simplicity of passing a ball to one another.
One of the older girls spoke very good English and helped the others with exchange of names. Rosanna, one of the UK volunteers, broke the ice by encouraging a group effort of reciting the alphabet, as the boys walked ahead throwing the ball across the width of the road.
Whilst at first they were unsure of the camera’s existence, the children soon showed animated intrigue once they saw a mirror image of themselves standing elegantly in their uniform. Nothing could be done except smile at their response, words were not important.
Before long we had reached our homestead. Reluctantly returning the ball, the children continued down the road walking backwards and waving frantically saying goodbye, especially to those whose names they grasped quickly.
We all hoped that our brief encounter with these children would spur future friendly greetings with one another. It certainly brightened up our day, it was evident it did theirs too.