Before I left for Uganda I collected about 40 soccer jerseys, 4 pairs of soccer cleats, some cones, a few soccer balls, and goalie gloves to bring to Uganda. I originally had the idea of starting a soccer team in Uganda or donating the equipment to an already existing team once I had arrived. Before I left one of the staff members at HELP made the suggestion of implementing some public health lessons into the soccer program to help teach kids healthy habits. Still not knowing exactly what to do with a suitcase full of soccer equipment after spending a week in Uganda, I met the members of The Youth Outreach Mission (TYOM). They had mentioned that they had used soccer matches as a way to gather street children and teach them about HIV. The next day I was in their office with all the equipment and they were so grateful, I thought we were all about to start breaking down into tears, but as a group of college aged young men, we held our composure and started brainstorming ideas for a soccer program. Our Initial idea was to gather the street children and orphans from Lugazi and have them play soccer and after soccer practices we would have health lessons. Members of TYOM worked together to gather a handful of about 40 street children together for soccer practice on a regular basis of about 3 times a week. After about 2 months of practice we had our 1st real game against Lugazi East, the Mukono District Champions ( The 3rd largest district in Uganda out of the 80 districts) and we lost 0-1 which was a result to a free kick they had in the second half of play. Just about every school in Lugazi knew about our up and coming team and wanted to play us. Teams thanked us for picking them to play us. We also had hundreds of school children gathered around the field for our games. Our second game came about a week later, to Lugazi West, the Lugazi city Champions who had recently just beaten Lugazi East 1-0 for the Lugazi Cup. The game was pretty even but by half time both teams were worn down. Thankfully thanks to our grant of about $14 (US) we were able to provide our kids with clean water and fruit at halftime which made a tremendous difference. Our boys came fired up the second half while the other team became a bit more sloppy. Our hard work payed off with about 2 minutes left in the game when one of our star forwards put a goal to the back of the net. Hundreds of children were cheering and laughing and our own boys on the sidelines started doing cartwheels and flips. I myself was hugging everyone and highfiving the boys, I felt like a proud father. It was by the far the greatest moment I had in Uganda. A couple of minutes later as the final whistle was blown all the boys were hugging eachother in excitement as I honored them to be one of the best youth soccer teams in Uganda, which they really are!) I left about a week after the last game was played but before I left I got some funds put towards getting them some more soccer shoes and also to have their individual photos taken so that we could make identity cards for them. All the boys have such an interesting story to tell about their life, most of which are heartbreaking, but they are such great kids and are so dedicated to the team and soccer in general.
The Oregon Trail
6 years ago