Busy, busy week
Five seminars/meetings this week in three different towns. Pooped. In Gulu, in Northern Uganda, now. We're all attending a Ugandan wedding tomorrow. Stay tuned for details.
Park Univ student, community band together to help Ugandan kids
From the Parkville Luminary
NOTE--To see complete photo album of the event below, click here.
KAMPALA, UGANDA—Here on a dusty, run down soccer field in the middle of town, when you say the name Park University, everyone lights up. That’s because Park University, and one Park student in particular, are unlikely heroes in this place that is literally and figuratively a world away from Parkville, Missouri.
We gathered on this dirt field on Jan. 8 for a ceremony handing over donations made by the Park University community to the Uganda Youth Soccer Academy (UYSA). The donations—soccer balls, gloves, water bottles, jerseys, and shoes—were collected by Park athletes and other students and staff and shipped to Uganda.
The equipment will be used by the 400 or so kids who are part of the Uganda Youth Soccer Academy. Its goal is to offer opportunities to the disadvantaged youth of Uganda through soccer and education. Founder Ivan Kakembo said that the UYSA offers weekly soccer practices for the kids, featuring professional coaches, while at the same time seeking scholarship funding to help the youngsters attend school. Kakembo said most of his soccer kids are orphans, and that many were born HIV positive. His kids are among 12-million Ugandan AIDS orphans, and some of the 150,000 people here under 14 who are HIV infected (unaids.org; 2009 statistics). Thus, the UYSA’s efforts are also increasingly concentrating on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. (Photo-Happy girl, donated shoes).
At the donation ceremony, about 100 kids of all ages crowded around as Kakembo said some inspirational words and thanked Park University for its generosity. Then, the equipment was passed around to the gleeful kids. They seemed especially taken with the fluorescent yellow water bottles, although the soccer balls were also a big hit. Boxed up, it looked like a lot of equipment. Once distributed, it was easy to see that the need is much greater.
Park’s donation to the UYSA is their second. The soccer team donated uniforms in 2008. Both donations were organized by Ugandan Park student athlete Simon Senfuka, an energetic and humble young man focused on giving back to those in his country who are less fortunate. During the brief ceremony, Senfuka stayed mostly in the background, saying just a few words, content to let his good works speak for themselves.
As the ceremony unfolded, on the sidelines, I noticed 30-40 other envious youngsters gazing wistfully at the soccer field. Kakembo said these are just a few of the hundreds of kids from a nearby slum who are interested in playing but unable to participate because the UYSA has limited resources.
After the ceremony, the kids had a great time trying out their new toys. Senfuka was in the middle of the action, showing off some moves during a scrimmage. Though unspoken, it was obvious to see the respect that the kids had for Senfuka both as a soccer player and as a man. Certainly, these youngsters could have no better role model.
Because so many of these young soccer players are touched by HIV/AIDS, Senfuka and Kakembo decided they needed to do something to help. They are organizing the first annual Kampala AIDS Walk fundraiser on April 30. The Kampala AIDS Walk will be held in conjunction with the Kansas City AIDS Walk on the same day. (For more information, go to: www.aidswalkkansascity.org ) The Park University international student services office, among others, is helping to tie the two events together.
The overall goal of the Kampala AIDS Walk is to raise funds to reduce the spread of AIDS among marginalized youth in Kampala. Specifically, the organizers plan to distribute HIV/AIDS information and condoms to 5,000 youth. In addition, proceeds from the event will pay to counsel and test 500 young people for HIV.
This is the first AIDS Walk in Uganda, but Senfuka and Kakembo are determined to pull it off. Given their passion and dedication, I have no doubt that the event will meet all of its goals. I also have no doubt that planning and financial support from the Park University students, faculty, staff, and alumni will also play a pivotal role in the event’s success. I’m proud of Simon Senfuka, and all those at Park University who are helping to support this most worthy cause.