On Sunday October 14th, Soccer without Borders and Hope Primary School held a community celebration to kickoff SWB’s activities and raise awareness of Hope Primary School. The event was held at St Andrews Church Field in the center of Ndejje village, a small community on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, and featured soccer, art, music and speeches. Organized around the theme ‘Living in Harmony: Community, Friendship and Togetherness,” (a theme chosen by Hope’s director Jacques Bwira) the event highlighted the importance of providing education to the diverse population of Ndejje that includes many refugees from countries throughout East Africa.
Originally called KURCEC (Kampala Urban Refugee Children’s Education Centre) the school was founded by community leader Jacques Bwira to provide education to refugee children who lack access to Ugandan government schools, either due to a lack of funding or the language and social barriers inherent in the refugee experience. In 2007, the French Government awarded the school a grant that enabled them to purchase land in Ndejje and start a permanent school for both Ugandan nationals and refugees in exile in the Ndejje area. The new school site is named Hope Primary School, an acronym for “Helping People of Ethnicities.”
Thus, Jacques and his staff chose the theme “Living Together in Harmony” to communicate a sense of solidarity within the diverse community and to promote the mission of Hope Primary.
Ndejje is home to a growing number of refugees who have fled conflicts in the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. These families arrived in Uganda and opted to pursue life in the the capital Kampala rather than in the rural camp settings. When refugees forego life in the camps, they also willingly forego the support of United Nations High Committee on Refugees, and often face difficult circumstances in the urban environment. Ndejje is an attractive location for these refugees because of the low cost of living and the opportunity to live with other nationals from their home countries.
According to Jacques, himself a refugee from Congo, refugees often face social discrimination and resentment from their Ugandan neighbors. Ndejje has overall been welcoming to the school and the refugee community, and the event sought to appreciate and encourage a positive relationship within the refugee and national populations.
Soccer serves as a perfect platform for the celebration of such a partnersnip. With its global appeal, it is simple for people to recognize a shared humanity in playing together. The day featured a 5 v 5 soccer tournament, a juggling contest, community arts activities, djs and speakers. It also served as a kick-off event for the upcoming “Soccer and Storytelling” program SWB will be running with the students and teachers of Hope Primary.
During the soccer tournament, refugee children played along side Ugandan nationals and the crowd on the sideline enjoyed the music provided by Cobra Disco Sounds and the arts activities. Local Ugandan and refugee community leaders each spoke in support of the importance of the rights of all people to dignity and respect in the community, regardless of where they come from.
Following the event, the families of the children at Hope Primary went to the school to enjoy refreshments and to finish the afternoon together. Overall, the event was a great success and provided a great spring board into the upcoming activities in Ndejje.
A special thank you to Michael Sempebwa who volunteered for SWB on the day to help organize the tournament, coach the youth and translate. A special thank you as well to Sports Gift of Southern California USA who collected and donated the equipment used for the event.