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Sports at Hope Academy: Building character and leadership – being a winner, losing gracefully, and setting goals

“I think sports are so important — although education and work are vital for a child’s development (and of course responsibilities must be met), being active and taking time to let go and have some fun are also essential. “– Katie Michelle Thompton

 

Katie reflects on sports and life at Hope Academy during her second volunteer placement at URF.

 

“Some of my favorite memories of Uganda were when we would walk up the road to Kyetume in the evenings, and hang out at the football pitch.  (Being American, we would of course call it the “soccer field”, but since most of the world calls it football, I’ll just go with it.)  Every time we went to the pitch it was different.  Some days the Hope Academy students would compete against other schools, while other days they would compete against each other.  No matter who was playing, there were always lots of people gathered around the pitch socializing, practicing, playing, and just having a good time.

 

Usually, students would divide into two games: girls playing netball, and boys playing football.  The games were often pretty serious and the competition was always fierce.  I remember being so impressed with their athleticism and their sportsmanship, too. Being a spectator and an athlete myself, I loved watching everyone come together.  I know from my own experience just how valuable being a part of a team and being active were for my childhood, so it was awesome to see the same principles being applied in these kids’ lives, too.

 

The reality is most of the students at Hope have to work VERY hard in order to provide for themselves and their families.  They have more responsibilities than someone like me can even comprehend, so watching them smile, run, laugh, and play was always such a wonderful thing.  Those few hours out at the pitch give them a short break, mentally and physically, from their digging, studying, collecting water, etc.  I think sports are so important for this reason because although education and work are vital for a child’s development (and of course responsibilities must be met), being active and taking time to let go and have some fun are also essential.  Like I said, going to the pitch was one of the highlights for me during my volunteer experience and it enabled me to get to know more students and get involved in the community in a different way, too. 

 

Football is ingrained Ugandan culture, and it is truly a universal language where even if you cannot speak the same words, you can play the same game.  Even though I still have a lot more Luganda to learn, I had so much fun kicking the football around and playing netball with the girls.  Competing and being a team member teaches lessons about leadership, being a winner, losing gracefully, and setting goals, all of which are necessary in order for students to become successful adults.  It is nice to see that URF and Hope Academy recognize this and continue to develop and emphasize their extra curricular activity programs.”