Red Ball Drop Day 1, Kampala: A Message of Unity and Friendship
There are times in life when you have those “WOW” moments and you wonder why you’ve been so fortunate to be there. Today, in entirety, was one of those WOW moments. (To view the Red Ball Drop Uganda Day 1 Album click here)
We were up early, unpacking, organizing and planning for Red Ball Drop Uganda Day # 1. Joseph (GYPA Country Director) and Ritah (GYPA Staff) coordinated and planned out a terrific schedule for the day, and it all started in nearby Namuwongo.
Around noon, members of Gomo Tong Football Club kicked-off the events, and throughout the day they described how sports have changed their lives from Kampala to Cape Town to Copenhangen. Each of them motivated and challenged youth in and around Kampala to use the power of sport to build new friendships and unify their community.
Joseph Ochitti (Homeless World Cup Copenhagen 2007) put it perfectly, “How many people can play with this red ball? 1,000? 2,000?” Students at Kiwuliriza (Ball Drop Destination #2) responded, “Everyone can.” With his trademark smile Joseph responded, “Yes, you are right. The world can play with this ball and we all can and must play together!”
Our trip in and around Greater Kampala took us to many special places and introduced us to many special organizations and individuals.
Ball Drop Destination #1: Namuwongo, an urban slum community where Project Namuwongo, which eventually evolved into the Global Youth Partnership for Africa, was founded 5 years ago this month (August 2003).
We arrived to Kisugu Junior Academy which is the center of primary school education for more than 600 students between 5 – 13 years old. Ronald Mukibi, the Headmaster, is not just an inspiring educator, but a long-time friend and supporter of the Global Youth Partnership for Africa. He welcomed the group to Kisugu and informed the members of Gomo Tong that they should come back and implement the Sports Outreach Program that Gomo Tong and GYPA Youth Group Members lead in various communities.
We distributed 6 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Soccer Balls and 10 Molten Soccer Balls. Some of these balls, as Mukibi told us, will be used at the “School Sports Day” this coming Saturday, August 9, 2008.
Ball Drop Destination #2: We arrived the Kiwuliriza COU Boarding and Primary School also located in Namuwongo. More than 40 students, primarily young women, greeted the team at the site of the basketball court that Kevin Carroll funded in 2004.
The members of Gomo Tong Football Club Distributed 4 Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Soccer Balls and 8 Molten Soccer Balls.
Ball Drop Destination #3: We arrived "Tigers Club," an organization that offers safe place to stay for street kids living in Kampala, around 3pm. This organization works with children and youth up to the age of 25. Many of them have been involved in drugs, petty-theft, and prostitution. The Tigers Club successfully uses sports as a tool to rehabilitate them.
The members of Gomo Tong Football Club distributed 6 Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Soccer Balls and 8 Molten Soccer Balls. In addition, the Tigers Club issued a “soccer challenge” to the members of Gomo Tong Football Club. We hope that the Tigers Club and Gomo Tong will organize a sports for social change soccer tournament in the near future.
Ball Drop Destination #4: We then headed 25 minutes outside of Kampala to Chiwanga. Chiwanga is just past the Nelson Mandela Stadium, the home of Uganda’s National Team, the Cranes. At Chiwanga, we visited the Phillips House. Phillips House is a home for young men and women who are orphaned and disabled. I have been fortunate to visit Phillips House on 3 occasions since 2003. Philips House is maintained by a tremendous team of women who feed, teach and provide social services with heck of a lot of love and friendship.
Currently, Philips House is home for 10 young men and women who live with physical and mental disabilities. In addition, they deal with an unacceptable degree of stigma and are ridiculed by most of Ugandan society. However, as we witnessed first hand when the balls were distributed the smiles, the laughing, the playing, tossing and kicking didn’t end. Sport IS the great equalizer.
Members of Gomo Tong Football Club gave all 10 youth the Special Edition Kevin Carroll Katalyst Red Soccer Ball.
Ball Drop Destination #5: Our final Red Ball Drop of the day also took place in Chiwanga at a nearby grass field with two wooden soccer goals. We randomly spotted a group scrambling around the soccer pitch. So, we stopped by. After all, all of this distributing of the balls made us eager to kick the ball around, too. At the pitch, we found out that the young men playing were between 20 and 28 years old and organized themselves into a local football club called the “Uganda Boca Juniors” in honor of the great Diego Maradona.
As the player/coach of the team explained, this team was formed by their older brothers about 5 years ago and they have continued it on in their name, but because they love football.
Again, Gomo Tong Football Club was challenged to a soccer match by the Uganda Boca Juniors and invited the players to come back to Chiwanga in the near future. We provided 2 Molten Soccer balls to this “field of dreams” in Chiwanga that would make Diego proud.
By the end of the day, we distributed 54 balls that we estimate will reach over 800 young men and women in Uganda.
Tomorrow, for Day # 2, we are off bright and early to the Kiboga District, located just under 2 hours west of Kampala.