Whilst Andy has been out in Sri Lanka, I’ve arrived back from my own mini adventure…
Eastern Europe was always on my list of places to visit after reading a book when travelling through Balii in 2009. It was here that I picked up a tatty copy of 'Playing the Moldovans at Tennis', written by British comedian Tony Hawks. The book follows Tony's adventure as he takes=on a bet to play and beat all of the 1997 Moldovan football team at tennis. A fascinating read on such a random adventure – which has inspired me to be where I am now - albeit with mini tennis around the world. (Another worthwhile title by Tony is 'Hitchhiking round Island with a Fridge', an equally brilliant random adventure).
The result of Tony’s Moldovan adventure was the Tony Hawks Children's Care Centre in the capital city, Chisinau. The subsequent feature film of the book has all of its proceeds going towards the centre. This was a place I had always wanted to visit, to see what Tony and his team have managed to achieve. Part of the MTWT is to ensure that there is a legacy, or a follow-up, to ensure that the children continue to have access to tennis in the future.
Once in email contact with Tony, he encouraged me to come out to the centre, so I booked a last minute flight out into Eastern Europe.
My first stop was Ukraine where I met up with Ivan, a friend I met in Nicaragua earlier in the year - it's amazing all the contacts and people you meet on the road. Ivan welcomed me with open arms and gave me a locals tour of the city. Unfortunately I have arrived during their national holiday celebrating their independence (below), therefore no schools are open for me to visit in my short window.. The holiday marches were full-on, almost hostile, with the government clearly puffing it’s chest with all of the armed forces on display. Ivan has agreed to be one of our ambassadors to get one of the Zsig Sports equipment packs into a local primary school and to follow up with us in the near future.
After my short stopover I flew into Moldova and arrive at the capital, Chisinau. Moldova is probably best known for being the poorest country in Europe and the least visited by tourists - so I had kept my expectations low. After checking into the basic, but homely, hostel I am looking forward to seeing what awaits me at the Children's Centre.
On arrival (above) I'm struck by the clean modern building, in stark contrast to much of the desolate communist buildings I passed on my way into the city. I am greeted by centre Director Diana who gives me an incredible warm welcome and a tour of the facilities.
And what facilities they are! The plot of land, which was initially a rundown house... Is now home to a modern facility with specific care rooms, which would sit comfortably in any western city.
Rooms includ the Speech therapy room, Play room, Sensory room,Physiotherapy gym and Aquatherapy pool (above).
Meeting the inspirational staff (above), I get a chance to play tennis with a few of the children on the roof area (below). They loved using the Zsig floating squares and balloons before developing onto the sponge balls and racquets. The inclusive equipment was a win... and there was some serious fun had, as they achieved success at each level of min tennis progression. The parents looked on in astonishment as the children hit their first rallies. Safe to say that they were hooked. Both boys went up to their carers and asked if they could stay longer... We continued into a two hour session.
After our tennis Diana and myself sat in the office looking through the Zsig website and their inclusive equipment https://zsig.com/collections/early-years-coaching. She almost came to tears with what she saw - as she explained the impact the equipment could have on some of the children in the centre.
A quick visit, but one of the most rewarding and inspirational of this whole trip. The inclusive equipment will be a well used asset to the child care offering at the centre and I know it will be well used by the staff at the centre.