Today we got to experience the sport side of Youth Sport Uganda. Each Saturday, YSU organizes a sport day for the children from the neighbourhood at St Jude’s Primary School, a school of about 1300 students in baby class to P7. Children in P3 to P7 from the three neighbouring areas, including Acholi Quarters where we were last week and the police barracks nearby, come Saturday mornings to learn to play Netball, Handball and Field Hockey from local coaches and Teacher Jessica and Teacher Boscoe. The goal of Youth Sport Uganda is to give the children something to do on Saturdays and to give them a chance to learn through play.
Joshua, the founder of YSU, couldn’t meet us until the afternoon so all the children came in the morning as per usual but were told there were guests coming in the afternoon. About 40 of them hung around until we got there. A normal Saturday would involve sport instruction in the morning and the afternoon would be used for teaching depending on what topic is relevant for the day or who is there to do the teaching.
We arrived just after 2pm and all the children were sitting in a classroom, waiting for us to arrive. Once we had been introduced, the children moved outside to show us how to play netball. It seems to be a variation of basketball except the ball is thrown to team members and there are about a million rules. Teacher Jessica was always whistling at the children because they were breaking this rule or that rule. It looked like a lot of fun and the children assured me that it isn’t hard to learn how to play.
The next game they demonstrated was field hockey except it was played on the same dirt pitch where they played netball. Soon they will have a new field in which to play. The church has just donated a piece of land in behind the school so YSU has leveled the field and is currently waiting for the grass to grow. Rainy season has just started so apparently the grass will soon grow. They have added two soccer nets and this pitch will be used for all types of sports. It should be open soon for the children to play. Hopefully no-one will fall into the new latrine pit that was dug between the school and the new field. It must be at least 4 meters deep! This was dug a year ago and the school is waiting for the government to finish the new latrine structure.
Once the children had finished playing their games, the jerseys we had brought (that were donated by the children and families from Glenmore Elementary) were handed out. Each child got a jersey to keep and some got shorts or baseball pants as well. Teacher Jessica asked if we would leave the left-over jerseys to give to the children who had been there in the morning but who could not stay. We told her she was free to keep the jerseys and the two bags and she could hand them out next Saturday to the missing students. She was very grateful.
We got a group shot with all the children and the children showered me with love through a great ritual where they crouch down and slowly grow tall as they shower love through their fingers.
We then headed into the classroom where we had first met the children to do a question and answer session for the ball caps. We had full baseball uniforms donated which included 25 ball caps but as there were more children than caps, Joshua suggested we ask questions to select those who would get the caps. We gave Teacher Boscoe and Teacher Jessica a cap and Boscoe requested that we give a cap to the boy who represented the school at the National Sporting Championships so we were down to 22. Who can name a deadly snake in Uganda? What is the biggest animal in the world? How many sides does an octagon have? The children enjoyed answering our skill testing questions and we were soon out of hats.
ISEE Solutions is not about sports but we are about education. We believe in educating the whole child and that includes educating them physically. I told the children to keep playing sports in order to stay healthy and I also urged them to stay in school. Hopefully the message will be internalized by some.
Joshua promised that Aunty Erika would be back over the course of the year and I can see myself connecting more with these children. They were a great group of kids and I hope that future volunteers with ISEE will be involved in the sporting days that Youth Sports Uganda arranges for these vulnerable children. I enjoyed my time and I am not even a sporty type person! It’s great to see another example of what amazing things the locals are doing for their communities.