Two Girls' Dream To Play Tennis at Wimbledon Fulfilled

Part of campaign to highlight the importance of clean water to children

Seven-year-old Annabel and Ysehult, 14, were winners in a competition
Seven-year-old Annabel and Ysehult, 14. Picture: WaterAid/Oliver Dixon

Two girls, whose dream was to play tennis at Wimbledon, have had their wish granted after featuring in a ‘Droplet of Dreams’ campaign to highlight the vital role of clean water in helping children reach their potential.

Tennis star Heather Watson teamed up with WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation to help the two girls fulfil their dream.

Ysehult, 14, and Annabel, seven, are members of the Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative (WJTI), a local community coaching programme set up to encourage children to play tennis. The girls were winners of a Wimbledon Foundation competition, in which they shared their dreams of becoming professional tennis players.

They have both missed playing tennis during lockdown and were thrilled to get the chance to play on one of the exclusive Championships courts at the heart of Wimbledon.

Their dream of playing tennis at Wimbledon was encapsulated in a bespoke glass droplet, created as part of a wider project where WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation asked children around the world to share their dreams for the future, and in a post-pandemic world.

Gathered from children in countries where WaterAid works - including Pakistan, Colombia, Malawi and Ethiopia - the ‘Droplets of Dreams’ have brought six children’s dreams to life in dioramas encased in glass droplets which were photographed around the world.

One in ten children don’t have clean water close to home, meaning millions spend hours each day walking to collect it, leaving little time for their education. WaterAid says that up to 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses and 800 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.

Heather Watson, who won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Henri Kontinen in 2016, is supporting the campaign. She said, “It’s really touching to see this collection of dreams of children from around the world. Everyone should be able to have big dreams for their future and the chance to make them happen. I had ambitions to become a professional tennis player for as long as I can remember and feel so fortunate to have had the support and resources to help me fulfil my dreams. But for millions of children around the world, a lack of clean water holds them back from reaching their potential. Hours spent collecting water each day means children often miss school, while drinking dirty water can make them sick.

“I’m proud to be supporting WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation in their mission to highlight the importance of clean water in building a better future. With clean water close to home, children can live healthy lives, go to school and realise their dreams.”

Heather Watson (GBR) Vs Serena Williams (USA) on Centre Court
Heather Watson playing Serena Williams. Picture: AELTC/Thomas Lovelock

Amongst the other dreams represented in the droplets is that of Tsehaynesh, 15, from Derekwa in Ethiopia, who wants to be a midwife when she grows up. Before WaterAid installed three water points in her community, she used to spend around two hours a day collecting water from a spring along a muddy path. She missed school and it affected her studies.

Tsehaynesh said, “The clean water taps in the village help me be on time and the good hygiene in the village keeps us healthy. Together, the clean water and hygiene will help me fulfil my dreams of completing school and becoming a midwife.”

Camilo, 12, from Colombia meanwhile, wants to be an environmentalist; Fatima, 13, from Pakistan imagines opening her own beauty parlour and nine-year-old Steven from Malawi, dreams of being a journalist and flying around the world investigating stories.

The diarama of Ysehult next to nine-year-old Steven's from Malawi. Picture: WaterAid/ Oliver Dixon

Ysehult, who would love to make it as a tennis player but has a back-up plan to train as a civil engineer, also has dreams for the wider world following the hardship of the past year.

Ysehult said, “After the pandemic, I would like the world to be more aware of looking after our planet and helping all those people who are struggling and need our help.”

Bruce Weatherill, Chairman of the Wimbledon Foundation, said, “Childhood is supposed to be a time to learn, play and dream about the future. But many children around the world are being held back from fulfilling their dreams by a lack of clean water.

“Through our ongoing partnership with WaterAid, the Wimbledon Foundation is championing clean water for healthy lives; freeing women and children from the burden of collecting water; and giving them an equal chance of being healthy, educated and able to reach their true potential. The Wimbledon Foundation is also providing crucial funding for water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare centres in Ethiopia, Malawi, Myanmar and Madagascar.”

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid, said, “In a year where communities have been brought to a standstill by the global pandemic, the role of clean water has never been more important. Clean water, handwashing and good hygiene are key to combatting the spread of Covid-19 - as well as other infectious diseases – and is vital to these children and their communities in leading healthy lives.

“With clean water close to home, children don’t need to spend hours collecting it and missing out on school; but instead have a chance to reach their potential and fulfil their dreams.”

For further information click here.

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July 5, 2021