Northern Uganda is unfortunately most notorious for the violent civil war that pitted the Lord’s Resistance Army against the Ugandan government with countless children being victimized in the process. Undoubtedly the entire region is recovering from trauma. Often in dire circumstances such as this, improbable leaders emerge. One such leader has been Ayuru Beatrice Byruhuanga. Beatrice grew up in a family and culture where women are not expected to have careers. After graduating from college, Beatrice started a private school open to both boys and girls. She has provided incredible access for children who would not normally be able to afford education and has developed a first class school. For her work she has been awarded a prestigious leadership award from the United Nations.
It has been Beatrice’s vision to utilize the power of sports to not only educate but also rehabilitate youth who have been through so much adversity. As such, she developed a vision to build not one but three courts on their school property, out of which will host coaching training seminars, camps and other events to bring together coaches and athletes from all over Uganda.
Our connection to Beatrice was a Texas Tech professor, Jens Omli, who has spent time in Uganda working primarily with the football community. He also connected us to the volunteer team for this particular project, a group from Springfield College in Massachusetts.
Basketball historians know that Springfield, Massachusetts is the birthplace of basketball, the place where Dr. James Naismith hung two peach baskets in a YMCA building to give youth a game to play in the winter months. The YMCA is no longer standing, but Springfield College has continued the heritage with a strong focus on sport including sport science, sport psychology, sport development, etc. It is a fitting school to partner with Beatrice, given that their visions are so similar. In a generous tribute to the partnership, a faculty member from Springfield donated a brick from the original YMCA building which was laid into the poured concrete as you can see to the left.
The team from Springfield College traveled to Lira, Uganda in January to help construct the first of what will be three basketball courts for Lira Integrated School. They worked very hard and long hours, as you can see from the picture below with the car headlights allowing for work into the evening. In May, there will be a huge coaching training conference on the three courts, so they will be finished by then. The Springfield group provided the initial push!
In addition to the hard work, a highlight for the team was being able to be honored guests at a Ugandan wedding. It was an experience they will never forget!
Some quotes from the participants:
I couldn’t be happier to travel to Uganda this winter. The trip has taught me so much about the sanctity of life and how challenges are faced every day. The Ugandans are truly a unique and beautiful culture of people. The things I have learned and the relationships I created are of some of the greatest memories that I will carry for the rest of my life.
The trip to Lira, Uganda was such an amazing experience for me. I know the court we started will make a difference in their lives, but the difference that the Ugandan people have made in my life is much greater. I have never met a group of people that are so welcoming and so believing, than the Ugandans. They are thankful for everything they have been blessed with by God and live each day in happiness. I really hope to return to Uganda in the next couple of years. I will cherish the friendships I made while I was there forever.
Your input that includes the financial support, basketball/tennis equipment and your manual labor towards the construction of the basketball court has created a big impact and will not leave the lives of our children the same. This will develop their talents, mental abilities and build a team spirit among others. All these provisions have taken the institution to a whole new level. – From Beatrice