Winston Churchill’s Pearl of Africa is lush and breath-taking. The people are beautiful, gracious, and very warm. And in spite of bearing the scars of the atrocities from brutal dictatorships of recent past, the people’s resilience and vitality shine through. You can see it in the young children walking for miles, often barefoot, to school; in the little girls, possibly no older than six or seven, carrying their younger siblings in their tiny arms; in the twinkle of the eyes of the hundreds of young Ugandans gyrating, twerking, crip walking, and pop locking to the latest afrobeat blasting through the bass heavy sound system at the start of each day of Ray United FC’s (RUFC) Soccer and Public Health Camp.
RUFC Soccer and Public Health Camp is a unique blend of football and health education, reaching hundreds of Ugandan grade school and high school students each day for five days. Neither mid-day heat nor torrential thunder storms could stop the resolve of the camp organizers and facilitators. I was part of 12 Trojans who worked synergistically with our Ugandan counterparts as we facilitated health education sessions on various talking points such as infectious disease, nutrition, and gender roles. Each day we met a different set of bright and determined young Ugandans whose lives were different from ours, but whose dreams of a better future we shared. And even though I was the facilitator, I was the one learning – gleaning life lessons from the smiles, the songs, and the stories of these vibrant young East Africans.
In a community where resources are scarce and opportunities elusive, RUFC brought opportunity not only to the students who participated, but to the entire community as well. Hundreds benefited from RUFC’s health outreach – providing medical services such as blood glucose testing, Hep B and HIV screening to 300 residents. It also brought opportunity for us Trojans – opportunity to learn, to grow, to forge lifelong relationships, and to experience Uganda and the warmth of its people in ways I never could have imagined. Apwoyo matek!
Ray Wipfli, RUFC founder, shares his thoughts.