NNU student athletes to Uganda

The Courts for Kids group that traveled to Nyaravur, Uganda consisted of team members from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and California.  We had eight student athletes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID: Taylor Simmons, Katie Swanson, Cierra White, Ellen Ferrenburg, Kayla Schumann, Leslie Warwick (Women’s Basketball), William Rieke (Baseball), and Matthew Veteto (sports manager), and three NNU supporters:  Jacque Simmons and Samantha & Luke Thompson.  Sam Obol and Ochan Moses met the team in Uganda to accompany us throughout our stay.

welcome dance

When we first arrived in rural Nyaravur, we were greeted with a parade of dancers, singers, and drummers.  The community was very welcoming.  There was a ground-breaking ceremony featuring politicians and community leaders who showed support for the court and gave speeches on the present project and future hope.  The cultural dancers and drummers continued and our team joined the celebration.

Peter Wathum graciously opened his home to host us for the week.  We enjoyed his morning teaching lessons.  He generously gave us a goat to roast for dinner one night; it was delicious!  We also thoroughly enjoyed his gift of sugar cane one afternoon.  We were thankful for the hospitality shown and felt safe and welcomed during our stay in Nyaravur.


There were many workers to help us build the court, and we finished the court in five days.  It was hard work, but it was fun to see the daily progress and watch the community’s excitement grow.  We enjoyed getting to know many of the local citizens, and we built special friendships over the course of our stay.  There were so many children, and we played with them constantly during our work breaks!  Their favorite game that we taught them was Duck, Duck, Goose.  The first

duck duck goose

time we played, it was the largest game we had ever seen.  There was a giant circle of children, and many adults surrounded the circle to watch and laugh along with us.  Playing

with the kids was a definite highlight of the trip, and it goes to show that even with language barriers and cultural differences, fun and laughter sound the same.

When the court was finished, our team scrimmaged to demonstrate the game, and then we hosted a basketball clinic to work on fundamentals.  Most people of Nyaravur were completely unfamiliar with the game of basketball.  They had never watched it or played it.  Our team introduced the basic concepts and rules of the game.  During the clinic, we

shooting camp

worked with all ages of people on form shooting, passing, and dribbling.  There were so many people there; it was impossible to work with everyone!  Our hope for the future is that those who learned and have a basic understanding will teach others and the upcoming generation.  By the end of the day, it was encouraging to see many catching on to the skills.

To share the game of basketball with many who were unfamiliar with it was an amazing experience.  Our team loves the sport, and it was truly an opportunity to give to this community through the game of basketball.  The court in Nyaravur was the first court


in the entire West Nile region.  Numerous surrounding communities will use it.  It will give the youth a safe place to play and a positive, healthy activity.  It will be a community-gathering place.  It will draw people to the town of Nyaravur as a destination.  There is a lot of hope resting on this simple concrete court.  While we wish we could see all the good that comes from it, we know that we played a role in starting the ripple of good that will spread from the basketball court in Nyaravur.  We hope to have left an impact on the people and community of Nyaravur just as they impacted us, and we treasure the memories made there.

~Taylor Simmons (NNU Women’s basketball)

As for the basketball project, it has come as a blessing to not only the children and the youth, but to the region as well.  The high rate of drugs and alcohol abuses shall drop as

court crowd 2

more youth and children shall be participating in the game, there will be opportunities for scholarship/bursaries  for the talented youth from universities & high schools, opportunities to participate in competitive games, increase enrollment in school as the project will encourage more children to participate and stay in school,improve community health both physically and mentally, the project shall too promote gender equality, and girl-child

participation in sports .The project shall also produce disciplined citizen hence reducing crime rates.

~Ochan Moses (in-country partner)

For the next 4 days it was all about work and work and I loved the energy from the team especially the girls, the gave it all and you could see the hard work in them that inspired the locals to chip in and help a lot. I could hear them praise the group and say if they can offer


the court to us and also do hard labor like this then we have no excuse not to help.

The opening ceremony was so colorful with dances and had the top district officials all at the function. I had a chance to talk on behalf of Courts for Kids Uganda and couldn’t help but recognize Ochan for being the brain for the court at Nyaravur and had to call him out from the crowd to come and be seen to a huge applause. Told them about what the Courts for Kids org does around the world, especially the work in Uganda and this being the 6th basketball court constructed in the country-Uganda to a huge applause.

~Sam Obol (in-country partner)

More quotes from NNU student athletes:

I learned that America has a huge influence on other countries and of course, that influence is not reciprocated.  We can pretty much go anywhere and hear American music, see American movies, or read about American celebrities in a Ugandan magazine.  I feel 

water on head

that we sometimes get so impatient and feel entitled because of OUR country and culture.  When things throughout the world are different than what we are used to, we have a tendency to say it is WRONG.  I feel that from this experience, other cultures do a much better job of accepting and embracing differences of culture than Americans do.

Sports, games and competitions give common ground with foreign people that may not look or speak or act like you.  Having this common ground open doors to show that we’re all human. 

I can live with LESS and I can do MORE.  Contentment is a state of mind, not state of being.

Being immersed in another culture causes you to learn more about yourself than you think.  My view of right/wrong isn’t the only view of right/wrong.  Differences aren’t bad- it’s just change I’m not used to.  There were many differences in the culture of Nyaravur that brought me out of my comfort zone involving personal space, timeliness, cleanliness, boundaries, rules, traditions, roles of women/children, etc.

boy dribbling

I loved the camp and watching kids learn how to shoot and pass and dribble.  The smile on their faces when they made a basket.  I loved being able to share with them a sport that has brought me so much joy, so many friendships and taught me so many lessons over the years.