How a local cricket program is changing the lives of communities on a global scale
When Natarsha Williams initiated the Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB) program in 2014, all she envisaged was a way she and her cricket club could give back to the local community.
Based in Ballarat, Western Victoria, the program has since developed into a global initiative that distributes second-hand cricket equipment to developing countries around the world.
Natarsha first created the program alongside family and friends to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in surrounding areas to be able to participate in cricket, but the program has since evolved to a national and global scale.
“It occurred to me that kids within our club are growing up and getting new cricket equipment every year, meaning there is perfectly good gear that could be used by someone else,” said Natarsha. After sending second-hand equipment to five different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Territory, Natarsha realised the potential of CWB and set her sights on helping communities in developing countries.
Through her role as a Registration and Communications Officer at Wendouree Cricket Club (WCC), Natarsha, with the help of club volunteers, collects second-hand equipment and now also sends equipment to Vanuatu, Bangladesh and Nepal.
“Whilst second-hand cricket gear may not seem significant to some, the less fortunate communities who receive it are provided with the resources to play a sport they may never have had the opportunity to play,” Natarsha said.
By reaching out to large organisations, the program’s global network has grown to include international contacts such as Aminul Islam, former captain of the Bangladesh Cricket Team.
Despite the international expansion of CWB, assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia will remain a primary focus.
Natarsha said most people forget that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians formed Australia’s first ever touring cricket team in 1868.
“We regularly celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footy players, but [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cricketers] have also played a big part in cricket; it’s about helping to provide a pathway to succeed.”
CWB also aims to use cricket as a way to empower junior players to make a difference, to teach the next generation a culture of giving and to become great community contributors.
“We’re really big on getting kids involved so that they understand that they live a very fortunate life and as such, learn to give back.”
The WCC also runs an annual fundraising event for Children and Family Services Ballarat to collect Christmas presents and goods for ‘First Night Care Packs’ for children going into foster care.
“People will often say that they do not have time to volunteer, however even if each person within a community puts in half an hour of work a week, collectively as a group, we can make a bigger difference together.”
Natarsha Williams’ story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champion initiative that aims to share the stories of local heroes making cricket a great game for all.
Know someone whose story deserves to be told? Nominate your Community Champion here.