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Two WPDI teams of youth from vulnerable contexts excel in a regional football tournament in northern Uganda

After playing brilliant games at the Rising Stars football tournament hosted by the Bushenyi District, northern Uganda, WPDI under 17 boys and girls teams finished respectively first and fourth in their championships. More, six boys and five girls were selected to participate on a team that will represent the region in a national-level football tournament in the Kabarole District, scheduled to take place on August 19th. One of our youth, Aleer Deng Leek, was even selected as the best goal keeper at the Rising Stars tournament. Bravo to all of them!

These youth came a long way, growing in vulnerable communities of Kiryandongo District, including the refugee settlement hosting close to 60,000 persons displaced by the conflicts from neighboring South Sudan. Their success at the Rising Stars tournament and the recognition of our impact is a testament of the Peace Through Sports program we implement at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, in partnership with the Western Union Foundation. The program has had a powerful impact in only a relatively short timeframe: in just a couple of years, it has brought thousands of at-risk youth – often from rival tribes from across South Sudan – together in an environment that teaches the values of tolerance and fair play. Football has an immensely deep appeal to the youth and, through sport, they learn to respect their opponent, engage in peaceful competition and have fun while doing so. WPDI has been able to reach tens of thousands of young people through this program and we look forward to engaging many more.

Participation in the Rising Stars football tournament was already an empowering victory for our two teams, who had proved their worth at several tournaments beforehand. The tournament was indeed organized by the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUSA), which raised the stakes and prestige of simply taking part in the competition.

Above all else, the event proved to be an excellent opportunity both for WPDI and our youth. Kiryandongo District local government officials were impressed by the skill level exhibited by WPDI teams and the impact of our program at the refugee settlement more broadly. They pledged to thoroughly work with us in future program implementation across the district – an encouraging sign of the impact of WPDI’s work for the refugees and host communities. As for our youth, they were thrilled to meet and engage with hundreds of their peers in a very exciting context. Cherry on the cake, each received medals and the boys’ team even walked away with a trophy - now proudly on display in WPDI’s local office.