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Thursday, October 23, 2008


The temperate is cold, but down in Columbus the energy and enthusiasm is keeping us all warm. Out of state and out of country volunteers have descended to battle-ground states, like Ohio, and the camaraderie is strong. They come from New York, California, Texas, Illinois, London and Holland.

Their efforts in partnership with the many local Ohioans volunteering at phone banks, registering people to vote, and door knocking has helped to get so many voters out to the polls early http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27308749/

Personally, this has been one of the most profound stories that I have heard. People of all ages, from various neighbors and from urban and rural communities, have already cast their vote and many of them for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Tomorrow, Michelle Obama will be in Columbus to speak at 'A RALLY FOR CHANGE' at Capital University.

More blogging soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Homecoming 2008...

I was born and raised in Ohio, and though I now live in Washington, D.C. I will always be an Ohioan.

As my friends and family know my social and community change journeys usually take me to places far away from the United States. I have been privileged to participate in community based projects and witness first hand the determination, optimism and hope of Africans across the African continent. Its shaped me in many ways, and specifically helped me to realize the many things that we take for granted in the greatest country in the world, America.

Yet, in the years before traveling to Africa it was my experiences volunteering in local political campaigns in Lorain County (Ohio), organizing student education forums and voter registration drives in high-school, and interning for the Democratic Party in Washington, D.C. where I first caught a glimpse what individuals and their communities can do to effect positive change.

However, over the course of the 5 years since my journeys commenced in Africa, here at home... here in the United States... Americans have experienced one disappointment after the next. In fact, for many Americans the American Dream has vanished. Their homes are foreclosed, grocery bills climb, and filling up the tank takes a hearty chunk out of the pay-check. All the while, unemployment in places like Ohio is over 7 percent(the highest it been since December 1992).

But, rather than continue to hang these problems on the proverbial blogsphere laundry line, over the course of the next 19 days I'll use this blog to document my homecoming... campaigning for Barack Obama in OHIO. I am doing this because I believe that we can do better as a country and we will do better when we are open to new ideas, approaches and solutions for our shared future. This is why I support Barack Obama for President, and Joe Biden for Vice-President.

Fortunately, the many members of the "global family" to get Obama elected enabled my trip to the land of the Buckeyes, the home of Rock 'n' Roll, and now Joe the Plumber.

What happened was this... earlier this year I was fortunate to be selected as a Starting Bloc fellow (check them out, great organization and great people) and when an email from the founders (read: entrepreneurs) of Travel for Change came across the list-serve, I went right to the TFC website.

After sending an mail to TFC staff, setting up my profile and speaking with them over the phone I received an email. A generous donor from Austin agreed to donate her frequent flier miles so that I could travel from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio for the remaining 3 weeks of the campaign.

So, here I am. About 36 hours from pounding the pavement in Ohio and ready to help restore confidence, hope and effect change here at home. I am exited to get back home and help turn Ohio Blue for Obama.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Red Ball Drop Day #5: Finale!

My last official day for the Red Ball Drop in Uganda, and Ball Drop #23 and #24, took place at the ENGAGE Uganda, Namuwongo Youth Soccer Tournament (attended by over 500 people) and Uganda's School for the Disabled. 10 youth from GYPA who live in Namuwongo, some of which also participate in Gomo Tong Football Club, participated in sporting matches with the children and youth including, hand ball and tug-o-war. View the photos here and more details coming soon!

Red Ball Drop #23 - Namuwongo

We distributed 5 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls for the ENGAGE Uganda, Namuwongo Youth Soccer Tournament, which included more than 80 children in the matches.

Red Ball Drop #24 - Mengo
We distributed 4 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 5 Molten Balls to over 200 children and youth.

In just 5 days here are the numbers:

Number of Red Balls and Molten Balls Distributed: 162
Number of Cities and Towns: 10
Number of Districts: 3
Number of Ball Drop Sites: 23
Estimated number of Ball Drop Uganda Beneficiaries: 3,000

The GYPA staff will embark on Ball Drops in Gulu later this week, and some of the balls will be used for the Gomo Tong Football Club preparations and practices for Homeless World Cup Melbourne.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Red Ball Drop Day 3 and 4 - Ntinda, Lugogo, Mukono, Masese and Jinja

Here is the latest photo album from Red Ball Drops Day #3 and #4. Commentary coming soon! Our days took us to a variety of inspiring and challenging places in Central and Eastern Uganda. Enjoy the photos here

We conducted the following Red Ball Drops:

Day # 3
Red Ball Drop #17 - Uganda School for the Deaf (Located in Mengo); 7 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 7 Molten Balls. Total number of students at the school is 200.

Day # 4
Red Ball Drop #18 - Ferdinand's Proline Academy; 4 Molten Balls to 30 under-10 children

Red Ball Drop #19 - Mukono; 5 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 5 Molten Balls to 100 youth

Red Ball Drop #20 - Uganda Remand Center and Prison (Jinja); 2 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 6 Molten Balls to 600 people

Red Ball Drop #21 - Masese Landing Site (located near Lake Victoria); 4 Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 4 Molten Balls to 80 youth and children

Red Ball Drop #22 - Africa Youth Development Organisation; 4 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 4 Molten Balls to 100 youth and children

On Day # 3 and Day # 4, we distributed a a total of 23 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Balls and 31 Molten Balls. The balls are estimated to reach more than 1,100 people.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Break in the Ball Drop....

Like many people here in Uganda, I've started to follow the various early stage Olympic Games. Right now, I am watching Nigeria v.s. Japan in soccer (and Nigeria just scored the first goal of the match). In 1996, and maybe you wouldn't believe it, but Nigeria won the Gold Medal in soccer. Don't believe me?

Tonight I'll look forward to the USA v.s. China basketball game. The stage is set for the U.S. to redeem itself from it's terrible performance at Athens in 2004.

However, this morning, I watched Russia v.s. Iran. Russia, who has star NBA player Andrei Kirilenko, was the overwhelming favorite, and defeated Iran 71-49. However, Iran played a fantastic game and fans cheered them on throughout the game.

After the game was truly the BIG moment (and thanks to ESPN for putting this on their homepage). Reporters had questioned the team members about the tensions between Iran and Israel. In response, it is reported that Russian Coach, David Blatt (who holds dual Israeli and American Citizenship) and Iranian Team Captain, Mohammed Nikkah, shared a hug and pat on the back. The questions came about after an Iranian swimmer refused to participate in a pre Olympic meet because an Israeli athlete was competing in the same race.

This demonstration of hope, and friendship through sport - even in the face of prejudice - is alive across the globe.

In fact, to bring it back to Africa for a moment in 1999, the East and Central Africa Club Championship was being held in Uganda between two countries that have been in conflict for several years, Ethiopia and Eritrea. During their stay in Kampala, the media and locals reported that the teams were sharing smiles, laughs and a meal before the match.

There is more work ahead and the challenges are many, but sports is a way that we can further embrace cultures, societies, and peace in our world.

Friday, August 8, 2008

From Uganda's Villages to the Olympic Village

The world may not expect Uganda to win a gold medals - or any medals for that matter in Beijing - but, considering the country's history of conflict in the 1970's and 1980's, Uganda has performed well over the years, and is churning out some exceptional young talent.

Over the last 6 days I've studied a bit about Uganda's Olympic and Sporting History. I learned that the best of times (and the worst of times) was during the regime of General Idi Amin.

Amin was well known as a sports enthusiast and athlete. He was a boxer, basketball and rugby player (oh, and by the way, he stood a imposing 6'4" and weighed 280 lbs). Today, he is considered both an evil tyrant that you never wanted to enter the ring against, and a sports hero who advocated and financially backed Ugandan athletes. Amin, some say, viewed this as an easy way to promote his country to the world.

The evidence of his backing is the following:

During his regime, the national boxing team, the Bombers, was ranked 3rd in the world amateur boxing. In 1978, the Uganda national soccer team, the Cranes, qualified for the Ghana African Cup of Nations finals where it finished second place after losing to Ghana 2-0, but they have since not achieved this level of success on the soccer pitch at any Africa or international tournament.

So, where are Ugandan sports today? Thanks to informative reporting by the Daily Monitor and New Vision, Team Uganda Athlete Profiles, Uganda's Olympic History, and and color commentary, it's been enlightening to learn a bit more about the state of Ugandan sports.

Uganda's Medal History

Uganda first took part in the Olympic Games in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia and have won a total of six medals, with the late John Akii Bua (photo left) winning the country’s only gold medal in the 1972 Munich Games in 400 meter hurdles.

Bua became a national hero and upon returning to Uganda, he received a city bungalow, a street and a stadium in Lira, northern Uganda, were also named after him.

Other notables from Uganda includes

• Mexico 1968: Eridadi Mukwanga, Silver, Boxing (bantam weight)
• Munich 1972: Leo Rwabdogo, Silver, Boxing (flyweight)
• Moscow 1980: John Mugabi, Silver, Boxing (welterweight)
• Atlanta 1996: Davis Kamoga, Bronze 400 meter

Additionally, according to the Daily Monitor, only 12 countries (of 54) have won Olympic Gold: South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Cameroon, Mozambique and Burundi.

In Beijing, the Uganda Olympic Team features 12 athletes in running, track and field, swimming, weightlifting, and badminton. They are:

Moses Kipsiro - Track and Field
Alex Malinga - Marathon
Boniface Kiprop - Track and Field
Geoffrey Kusuro - Track and Field
Benjamin Kiplagat - Track and Field
Abraham Chepkirwok - Track and Field
Justine Bayiga - Track and Field
Ronald Serugo - Boxing
Gilbert Kaburu - Swimming
Sam Mubarak Kivumbi - Weightlifting
Edwin Ekiring - Badminton
Aya Nakitanda - Swimming

From The Village to the Olympic Village
These young people, representing Uganda in Beijing, come from many of the same remote villages and communities that Global Youth Partnership for Africa (GYPA) youth come from or that GYPA works. In fact, the stories of the Olympic athletes over-coming adversity are similar. Starting with very little, without much formal training and without a real grasp of how sports can change your life.

For example, Alex Malinga (33 years old)was born in Kapchorwa - which borders Kenya to the East. According to him, "I hated running. At school (primary) I would refuse every time they told us to run." It was not until high-school, in 1996, that he started serious running. Since that time, he's participated in nearly a dozen regional and international track and field events, and placed 6th at the IAAF World Athletics Championships (2005) in Helsinki.

Aya Olivia Nakitanda, the only female representative on Team Uganda thanks her mother for her success as a swimmer. Aya is asthmatic, but with training and support from coaches and her mother, she has beat the odds. At the 2004 East Africa University Games hosted in Nairobi, Aya picked up 11 gold medals, two silver and one bronze. Yet, no matte how busy, Aya has kept up with her studies and is now in her fourth year at Makerere University in the department of medicine.

According to the Daily Monitor, her dream.... "I would love to see more and more girls turn into top class swimmers and compete internationally like me."

It begs to ask the question, who else is out there is dreaming BIG? Who in Uganda will represent Uganda in 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024.... Who are the other youth of today in the streets of Kampala? In the rural areas of the North or the East or the West? Who else will one day qualify for the Olympics in other sports dominated by the United States, China and Europe. Basketball? Soccer? Tennis?

There are many out there, but without financial investment in sports, without the commitment to training and practice and coaching, these dreams will not be realized. The timing is now when the world's eyes are on sports and soon will be on South Africa for the World Cup (2010). Fortunately, the private sector and public sector do have the ability and should endorse the sports for social change movement in Uganda. The organizations, the youth and the country is ready. Let's not miss the opportunity... let the games REALLY begin!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Football In Real Life

So, I may not get to see Messi v.s. Ronaldinho? You mean, I’ll only get to watch that on YouTube set to techno-music? I about lost it when I opened up the Daily Monitor Today (one of Uganda’s Daily Newspapers) to these headlines from the Beijing Olympics.

As we all know, the Olympics have been heavily politicized and criticized for more than the past year. And today, more bad news headlines, the football (read: Soccer) had also become politicized, and my favorite team (after the U.S. team), Argentina, was at the center of the controversy.

As most would argue today, Argentine football is two-words: Lionel Messi. Argentina selected Messi for the Argentine Olympic Team for Beijing in-line with FIFA’s rule that club teams must release under-23 players for the Olympics. Initially, FC Barcelona did not comply and took him off to a pre-season training camp located in Scotland. However, eventually, they allowed him to travel with his native country to Beijing. Yet, just a few days ago, FC Barcelona appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the FIFA ruling. Unfortunately, CAS ruled in favor of Barcelona.

Messi has made it clear that he wants to play for Argentina in Beijing, and it sounds like he will play no matter the CAS ruling. However, this politics hurts the game and harms the fans (Read: A Possible Argentina v.s. Brazil match-up for the gold medal becomes impossible)

So, in light of this saga, and hoping that Messi does play because he loves the game and wants to represent his country, this is my humble ode…. “Football in Real Life.”


In the United States it’s baseball diamonds and basketball courts. In the rest of the world it’s football fields. Every football field has distinct features and everyone has their favorite field. Something at the field that leaves an indelible mark on any football fan from Boca to Chelsea.

Some of the fields are surrounded by mountains and mango trees while others are located on the grounds of a church, a primary school or an old industrial site.

Some have wooden football goals whose roots sink deep into the earth and serve as “the oxygen” for aspiring young players. Others are rusted orange metal pipes or wooden sticks plugged into the ground. No matter, it all works.

Some fields have rocks that come from a nearby quarry to mark out of bounds, and dirt or mud to draw the mid-field line.

Ultimately, each football field is a unique expression of the football artists in the community.

The field itself is usually the central space of the community and thus, the heart of the community. The football field is the place where the youth, the children, the young boys and girls create, ask questions, discuss, and play. The football field belongs to each and every one of them, it is their home and where their dreams are nourished.

So, simple, yet so life changing, the football field explains why the game makes so much sense wherever it appears. All you need is an open space – whether its 100 yards, or 20 yards – the game can be played, the ball can be passed… the game is shared.

It’s not about the bleachers, because the fans and players will come whether or not there are bleachers.

It’s not about lighting, because at sun-down players still dream and replay the practice, the tournament, the game. And tomorrow, the sun will rise, the rain will fall, but a game will be played.

And, it’s not about having nets in each goal, some player will chase after the ball once it goes through the goal, and play will always resume. Why? Because as in life, in football it’s about the journey and it is impossible to be entirely individualistic. You need your team, and you need coaches if you are going to score the goals, cross the ball, or stop a defensive strike.

Yesterday, in Bukomero and Kiboga, those football fields, those players, those coaches, those mountains, mango trees, primary schools and churches that I’ve passed many times driving across Uganda, became a place I visited.


The images remain so vivid….children scrambling the field their blue or yellow school uniforms, goats roaming (and grazing) on the field, young kids in torn t-shirts and pants or without shoes sweating around the pitch and forgetting about life for a while. In fact, in the rural areas, I’ve even seen the young cattle herders park their cows as they take a little break in the middle of their afternoon to play.

Nearby, I could smell the women cooking local food like matoke, brick making kilns, and the horrible smell of sewage. These are not distractions, this is life in its unedited form, this is football in the barrios, the playgrounds, the favelas, the industrial parks, the rural areas, this is football in Uganda. This is “Football in Real Life.” This is why I love this beautiful game.