Uganda 2019 - Blog 3

The most amazing thing happened this week. Suddenly our games became so much more than games. 

This pilot project has raised a lot of questions within the team, ‘What are we doing here?’ ‘What does it mean if we meet each child only once?’ 


If you have been following us, you will know that there are around forty three thousand children who live in the camp – and just seven of us. Let me provide some context for you. The children we work with have a lack of access to safe water, good sanitation and their food is rationed. A family gets a certain amount of flour, rice, oil and beans dependant on the size of the family. They have all faced trauma, loss and continue to be unsure of how their lives will pan out.  The walk to school is far, and many children come without shoes, and are thirsty, hungry and tired. 

In this climate of charity work – the same question pops up.  How can you be sustainable? How will you make a difference if you come, you play, you have fun – and then you leave? 


Lets go back to Monday. We’re at the vocational college – a college made up of around two hundred and fifty students - where young people come to learn a vocation, for 6 months to a year and then leave.

Because the students are from 15 years old to 25, we have to plan carefully. The space is not set up well – it’s hilly, small and not particularly fit for the typical sports these young people are used to playing i.e football (with a ball made out of plastic bags and string).

Our session focused on high energy games to start with, a key concept of short time relationship building, and ended with an Ultimate Frisbee coaching session. I don’t know how much you know about Ultimate Frisbee, but it’s based around two teams, two goals and a lot of passing, intercepting and strategy about how to score. The team feels very passionately about the game. Two reasons – It’s a brand new skill and it equals out the playing field - no one knows this game. Numerous times when we asked young people what they thought a frisbee, was they said ‘a plate to eat from’. As funny as this is, it highlights how much of a new concept this kind of game is. 


We build the game up, starting with a passing drill. We then add in the rules about not moving when holding the frisbee. We challenge them to use communication skills and work as a team, and then show them how to win. It’s a process the team has mastered over the past week. 

New skills intact, the young people played “winner stays on”. One team really got the hang of it and was able to hold the playing field for the duration of the session. This made for smiles their side, and utter determination from the other young people waiting to play them.


At the end of the session, there  was a magical moment. The team had been watching the match play, and had asked the young people to resolve their differences in regards to gameplay. It was important to discuss what they learnt and why one team was holding the trophy of pride. Coach Jerry led the discussion.

The young people were asked to share their views on why the other team won - ‘The other team were strategic thinkers’, ‘We weren’t fast enough’

We asked the winners;

‘We worked as a team’ ‘We defended better’ ‘We took the training seriously’ ‘We communicated’.

Coach Jerry then went on to ask how these skills were transferable in life. He urged them to think about how if they worked together, their plans may better come to fruition. He shared that communication was key in getting what they needed to help themselves or other people. They nodded, they understood. This felt so apt – to remind people who are living in such hard times how to remember each other, and use communication as a means to better their lives. 

Just as we were leaving, a representative from our partner organisation came over and said to the young people - ‘Sorry guys, they have no glucose, no water and no biscuits to give you’ (we heard previously, NGOs used to give out biscuits to young people as a reward when they participated in something). The young people looked up at him, one of them shrugged their shoulders and said ‘No problem, we will take the knowledge. Thank you’.

written by Sarah