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WPDI team of refugee children from South Sudan wins a local soccer tournament in Northern Uganda

On January 31st, the WPDI soccer team of children under 12 (U-12) based in the  refugee settlement of Kiryandongo, in the North of Uganda, took the cup at the “Mini-Championship Gala”, a competition gathering kids from the settlement and from the neighboring town of Bweyale also in the Kiryandongo District.

The tournament took place during school break, lasting for 10 days, on the soccer field of the  Church of Uganda Bweyale Primary School. A total of 6 teams of U-12 (2 from the Settlement and 4 from the neighboring community) participated in the mini championship. Our team of eager and motivated children did not lost one of the 7 games it played throughout the tournament until its victory at the finals against a team of Uganda kids.

In their joy at winning the tournament, one could feel that victory was not just theirs. It was also a victory for their families, who fled the terrible civil war that is currently tearing South Sudan apart. The conflict has displaced nearly 4 million people, with 2 million of them in neighboring countries like Uganda or Kenya.

The story of these amazing refugee children seizing victory in a local tournament began with the programs we develop in the refugee settlement of Kiryandongo in partnership with the Western Union Foundation. Our partnership in Kiryandongo, which hosts more than 60,000 people, was launched in 2016 to make it possible for both our organizations to reach out to young people and communities who have been impacted by conflict but remain committed to regain their resilience. Our joint objective is to empower groups of young people as peace advocates and entrepreneurs who can make a difference in their communities. Among the diverse activities that we deploy in the camp, our Peace Through Sports program helps young refugees gain confidence in themselves while learning on values of living together in peace despite the trials they have suffered personally or through their families. Our aim with such psychosocial support is to strengthen the capacity of these children and their families to hope that tomorrow can be a better place.

For these refugee children, there is no doubt that they must have been elated by the feeling of recognition created by the participation in a tournament and, best of all, by victory. In the next step, our U-12 team will have the honor to represent both the settlement and the town of Bweyale at the district level. Their hope is to win their way into the next step and be among the three teams to represent Kiryandongo District at the national level during the December 2018 holidays. The tournament is called ‘Fields of Dreams’ organized by the Federation of Uganda football Association (FUFA) – a fitting name for the aspirations of our team. In a concluding note, WPDI would like to recognize the generosity of Uganda whose policies of openness towards refugees allow for such small miracles as refugee children representing their host community at national events.