If you were watching 7AFL’s coverage of the Geelong V Hawthorn game, you might have seen the incredible story of Jed Bews, Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs’ trip of a lifetime. During the off-season, the three Geelong Cats players ventured to Southern Uganda to see firsthand the work that The Cotton On Foundation do and how quality education truly empowers youth. What has been described as a life-changing trip saw the three players visit schools, healthcare centres and some of the students whose lives have been positively impacted by the generous donations and support of Cotton On customers.

“To describe the trip to the guys back home is going to be pretty hard.”
Rhys Stanley

Gratitude and appreciation seemed to be reoccurring themes as the trip progressed and the guys met more and more students. “They just want to get to school, there are kids walking 15kms each morning just so they can get to school. Looking back at [myself] I probably took it for granted.” Says Bews.

“They love learning.”
Jed Bews

During their visit, the players also held a footy clinic where kids got a little taste of AFL and had some one-on-one training with the guys.

A standout moment during the clinic was meeting Ronald, a secondary school student who won the kicking comp, kicking 40metres! Blicavs gave him a pair of his footy boots as recognition for his epic kicking skills. “Handing them over was surreal. He was the only one that got boots that day but there were hundreds of kids around him screaming, cheering and congratulating him… They weren’t jealous that they didn’t get any.”

“These guys, their grand final is to finish school.”
Mark Blicavs

The players spent much of their time with the students in their classrooms and as the experience came to an end, the realization of just how important providing kids with a quality education really is set in. Blicavs explains how the trip helped to put things into perspective for him. “To see their drive and their happiness and the joy that education brings it definitely puts it into perspective that… We are so fortunate.”

Finally, a trip to Southern Uganda would not be complete without a hike up Mt Mannya at sunrise. Overlooking the school grounds and Mannya village, Mark Blicavs, Rhys Stanley and Jed Bews were able to reflect on their life-changing experience.


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