by Emamul Haque
DHAKA -- A shower of colourful petals and warm applause greeted the 11 England players as they arrived at the Sher-e-Bangla Government Primary School at Mirpur. The players, including Stuart Broad, Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom and Luke Wright, chatted and joked with the excited youngsters in their classrooms before handing out WFP fortified biscuits. Watch video
A nutritious snack which helps hungry children concentrate and learn in class, the biscuits are often the first food the children eat in the morning. Their parents are too poor to provide them with more than one meal per day.
Highlight of day
But the real highlight of the day was still to come and the excitement of the children mounted as they scampered outside to the dusty school cricket pitch. They were divided into groups to ensure everyone got a chance to practice bowling, batting and fielding and to be close to one of their sporting heroes.
Gripping his bat firmly, 9 year old Rubel trembled with excitement as he prepared to face pace bowler Stuart Broad. “If only my neighbourhood kids could see me now!” he said.
Across the field, Shiuli, 11, was practising her fielding. Running as fast as her legs could carry her, she scooped up the ball and returned it precisely, earning herself a pat on the back and “good job!” from batsman Luke Wright.
“It’s a dream come true to play with these cricket stars - I’ll never forget today - and what we’ve learnt!” said Ruhul, one of the school’s top players.
To wrap up, the players distributed autographed bats and balls and posed for photos with the kids.
“It’s been a real eye-opener for us - it’s often easy to miss the poverty and hunger when you’re caught up in a hectic cricket tour,” said Stuart Broad. “This meeting, arranged by WFP, has been a reality check and makes you realize how little it takes to help children get the vital food they need.”
“We’re very proud to have the England Cricket Team batting on WFP’s side in the fight against hunger. The popularity of the game, as well as the celebrity status of leading players make them strong advocates for the poor and hungry,” said John Aylieff, WFP Bangladesh Representative.