A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Getting the Ball Rolling- Where Trevor Dudley meets Sports.

Kampala Kids League (KKL), and The Kids League (TKL) have been on my mind a lot, ever since my meeting with their founder, Trevor Dudley. ‘Helping to improve kids lives through sport’ is their underlining message. As a result, 13,550 children have taken part in sport in Kampala alone- but not only that, the organisations are breaking down ethnic, cultural, tribal and economic divides. Impressive is an understatement!

Both KKL and TKL sprang from the lack of sporting opportunities for kids in Uganda. Trevor, a keen sports fan, had previously been involved in the Little League equivalent in Jordan, where soccer and basketball leagues were popular. The experience, Trevor explains, ‘taught [him] how powerful sports could be to get across messages, and bring kids of different nationalities together’. Little did he realise then that he would eventually be living in Uganda, quit his job as a quantity surveyor and be running a national organisation promoting kids’ sports.

KKL and TKL do exactly that, plus more. The leagues require a huge amount of organisation. Hundreds of parents are involved, giving rise to a wave of community volunteerism across the country. ‘If you want your child to get involved’, Trevor elaborates, ‘you as a parent must volunteer to do something. For every 600 kids, we need 200 adults- coaches, referees, nurses etc. Once we have those adults, we can have kids coming from the streets who do not have parents'.

Currently approximately 15% of KKL’s intake are orphans and street children. To participate in the league, the kids must go through a street children’s organisation-which has the added knock on effect of keeping them off the streets.

But the story gets better. Trevor was seeing huge talent coming though the leagues, and soon realised that there was a need to channel this talent to help these players fulfil their sporting potential. Thus started the talented kids league, in which the crème of the soccer crop were given further training and coaching. Every year since 2002, KKL have been taking a team to the International Youth World Cup- The Gothia Cup, in Sweden, and the Tivoli Cup in Denmark. The team won in 2002. They won again in 2003, and again in 2005, and the are back again this year to defend their reign. Cartoons in the National Media jokingly mock the National Soccer team, claiming that the KKL team would beat them outright!

Additionally the leagues have become a powerful tool for cultural integration across the country. ‘I knew sports as a powerful means for bringing people together and breaking down barriers, but we did not realise what we were doing when we started’, Trevor explained. ‘Black, white and brown kids are playing, but it goes a lot deeper than that. The leagues are breaking down tribal, religious, cultural and economic barriers'.

The leagues are also used to promote health messages. Teaming up with UNICEF, TKL is promoting a vaccination programme at football matches. At one game, where 3,000 people turned up to watch, the medical team ran out of vaccines.

Quality is something which Trevor greatly emphasises. The Kids League has been growing rapidly, but steadily. Lessons are learned and built upon, and both TKL and KKL are known for their impeccable organisation. TKL now operate in 6 regions across the country, including two new planned regions this year. Included are some of the IDP (refugee) camps in the North of Uganda.

Trevor, originally from the UK, has been living in Uganda for the last 18 years. Attending an ‘old fashioned grammar school’ in England, and being ‘dragged through cross-country in the snow’, he realised the value of both academics and sport. ‘I hated it at the time, but later I realised that I learned so much more on the sports field than in the classroom. It was those school days that really showed me. Having an opportunity to play sport was a key thing’.

Cross-country in the snow anyone?!


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