Covering the Bases

15 Apr

Last week we introduced you to some new programming at The Recreation Project. Here is a detailed look at what has happened, where we are at, and where we are going.

1st Base – The Idea •

  • Last year we heard about Uganda qualifying for the Little League World Series. This shocked us. First off that there was baseball in Uganda, and secondly how successful it had been! We also learned that the visas to the United States were denied, which again sheds light on how difficult it can be to achieve your dreams in the current setting of Uganda. There is a good video about this whole situation by Jay Shapiro here: Baseball in Uganda
  • Upon learning these facts I did some research. It is here that I found out about a baseball complex 40 minutes outside of Kampala ran by Richard Stanley, a part owner of the Trenton Thunder in the New York Yankees organization. While working for Proctor and Gamble in Uganda in the early 2000’s he noticed the potential talent for baseball and built a beautiful yet simple baseball complex to start Little League. More on Little League Baseball Uganda here: Uganda Little League Baseball
  • I visited the complex for 2 weeks in January. I left with 10 baseballs, 8 gloves, a catchers mit with equipment, 2 bats, and a dream to start baseball for the first time in Gulu.

2nd Base – The School

  • Bishop Negri Primary School: Upon reaching Gulu we met with this school and their Head Teacher, Brother Santo. He introduced us to the PE teachers, Benson and Kenneth. Instantly we knew this was going to be home to our first league. Brother Santo and his staff have an incredible focus of providing the best opportunities for their students.
  • Coach Leni and Coach Mike: Once we found the school, we searched out some help. We brought two coaches on as work/study interns. We pay their tuition for plus a monthly stipend and they donate their time to help us coach the youth. We were lucky because we found two individuals who believe in these kids. Their time and effort has made this whole thing possible.
  • PE Classes: To start we introduced the game to all the PE classes at Bishop Negri. We are there daily and reach around 200 youth each morning. This consisted of many stations as the school has 90 students per class! Previously these students were all taught by only BENSON with no sports equipment! Now we have 3 coaches (plus Ben and I have snuck over there a few times). We do basic drills and have also progressed to playing some games.

3rd Base – The League

  • League Games: Our plan included creating a league where kids had something to do after school. We made 4 teams out of the 11 and 12 year olds and during March and April each team played a 12 game season, the first of its kind in Gulu. This program was set up exactly how little league programs are set up across the world.
  • It has proved to be an excellent opportunity for the kids to be that, just kids, who are out enjoying a game. But along the way we have seen them stride out and really try to better themselves in the physical and mental aspects of baseball. All of them have improved so much when given the opportunity to do so.
  • We have got the help of a number of volunteers in town for things such as pitchers training, hitting clinics, and umpiring games. Most of these volunteers are people who come from a baseball background of some sort, but some are jumping in and learning for the first time!
  • Last week we finished the league, and the Cubs ended up taking the title. To bad the major league Cubs can’t be as successful.

Home Plate – A Chance to Shine

  • Each year Uganda hosts an 11 and 12 year old national tournament for Little League Baseball. Quite frankly I was very skeptical about how quickly we could put together a team. Kids at the school touched a baseball for the first time on March 3rd.
  • As of last week we selected 18 players to travel to Mpigi, Uganda to compete! They just picked it up so quick, and although they might be behind the rest of the country, we are going to give these kids a chance to find out.
  • Goals are important and being able to shine in the areas where you have worked so hard is a common bond we all share. We are heading down on May 7th and will stay at the baseball complex until the tournament is over on May 18th. For 13 of our players this will be their first trip ever outside of northern Uganda. Our first 5 days will be a training camp of sorts. We are very excited to get to spend some quality time with these players and I hope this week will have a major impact on how they see and pursue their bright future.

So this has been what we are doing with this first sports program at TRP. After it is finished we will stop and evaluate what was done, how well it worked, and what our plan moving forward would be. If you have any questions/suggestions about all of this please feel free to contact us!

Swinging for the Fence

5 Apr

This is the first of a four part blog series that will shed light on The Recreation’s Projects newest adventure, little league baseball in Uganda.

“After all, where do dreams start?  They start when we’re playing, when we’re free to run and romp around.  That’s when we imagine we’re something bigger than we are.”

–          Kevin Carroll, “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball”

Roby’s Cubs was the first baseball team I ever played for.  My dad was the coach and we played our games in a beat up field across the street from Dairy Queen.  This team gave me meaning in life at 7 years old, and I ran with it.  Daily you could find me outside of my house throwing a baseball against a wall and having it bounce back to me so that I could pick it up cleanly and throw it back to the wall.  All by myself I would play a World Series in my head and dream about where this sport could take me.  I wanted to be Shawon Dunston, the short stop for the Chicago Cubs.  My dad went ahead and named the field outside our house Hoins Stadium and mom chose not to get mad when I killed her grass where home plate and the pitcher mound stood.  It was quite the little make shift baseball field.  They told me I had to do well in school in order to make it to the big leagues.  They could have said I needed to clean the house 5 hours a day, and as long as it gave me the chance to play I would have done it.  I played, worked, hoped, and dreamed whenever I had a baseball in hand.  At seven years old no dream was too big, I was swinging for the fence.

As most of you know I didn’t make the major leagues.  I actually was cut from my 9th grade baseball team.  But those trials helped me realize that sport was an avenue, not a dead end.  They revealed my joy in working with people and this became a driving factor in my career choices.  They taught me diversity as I always saw a picture of people who looked different playing together, another factor that has resulted in moving half way across the world.  They taught me to lose, but more importantly, get back up again.  They taught me there was always another season, and time to rebuild.  They taught me hard work, you get what you put in.  They also taught me that spending time with people is God’s greatest gift.  I can’t tell you what happened in the Nebraska/Oklahoma game in 1994 (that is not true, but most people can’tJ), but I can tell you that I went with my Grandpa.

Coach Mike lining Gulu's first baseball field

So you can imagine the disappointment I feel when I see that kids in Uganda don’t have the opportunity or chance to let sports drive them to a better future.  We at TRP think that is not okay.  So we are doing something about it.  Recently an opportunity jumped up to run a Little League Baseball program at Bishop Negri Primary School in Gulu.  It has me jumping out of bed in the morning.  Why?  Because it is a chance to combine my current passions of providing youth sporting opportunities in Uganda with where it all started for me:  on a make shift baseball field.  And my hope is that through this experience, that we will see these youth start to believe and dream of a life in which they can overcome boundaries that others put on them, or if they so choose, to alter the course of life that sometimes seems predetermined here.  My hope is that they will swing for the fence.

“Never accept the boundaries imposed upon you.  To truly honor your red rubber ball, you must alter the course when necessary”

Ready to go

–          Kevin Carroll, “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball”

This was the first in a four part blog series on The Recreation Project’s newest adventure, baseball in Uganda.  Stay tuned for our next update called “Covering the Bases” which will take a deeper look at the specific programs being implemented on the ground.

Youth Empowerment!

29 Mar

Of late TRP has brought in the local youth group from Lacor, which is the project’s closest center. The day program was to begin at 8:30am but the group came late and we began two hours late. The day was full of fun. Most of these youth used to pass via the project but they do think we are wasting our time because they do not know that people are going through experiential learning.
As we were closing up the day, the youth gave thanks to The Recreation Project. I was excited with their responses which were as follows.
I feel this is a great empowerment for us young people, we tend to think empowerment is only about giving money (financial support), to me it is not. The knowledge and skills that we are exposed to is an empowerment for our life. Komakech told his group. Team work was something good but to me creation of friendship was better to me, before, I hated Samuel but today I realized that I have carried him over the impossible wall. This has renewed our friendship already Omoya told his group. I am excited for this day! I realize that action or practical is better than theories, facilitator Charles can prove me wrong because we studied in the same school where we learned those theories hahahahaha he laughed. As he was sharing with his group my face was full of smiles because I studied together with him in high school and I know what he was talking about. I asked the only girl in the group to at least say something – I feel like spending day and night in this forest, she told the group.
As we close, the group requested their leader to say something to the Project. I cannot say how excited I am today. The youth of lacor should be happy because we host a project that will help change life in Uganda. On behalf of the youth of this community, I want to request the management of this organization to help provide our team with Football. Sports like Basketball, Volley ball, Net ball and Rugby would be good for the youth of this community, so Charles communicate this to your bosses.
More stories about our TRP impact coming soon.

A Letter of Appreciation…

14 Mar

Always nice to feel appreciated!

Website Issues…

8 Mar

Just wanted to say sorry for the recent website issues. We are not entirely sure we have them all fixed so please, if you make it this far and are reading this but know of an issue, we would be grateful for your feedback.

Also, I wanted to make it clear that our donor and financial database are handled through PayPal and are not linked or accessible through this website in any way so please rest assured that no financial or donor information was accessed.

Most users who were having trouble were using internet explorer. Please try Firefox, Chrome or Safari if at all possible. Again, sorry for any inconvenience.