Sport in Uganda is a powerful tool and motivator, none more so than the Ugandan Cricket Associations’ (UCA) ‘Cricket for Peace’ project – an initiative that uses the sport of cricket to help teach life lessons, health awareness issues and re-engage children affected by war and strife. The project is delivered by the UCA with support from the International Cricket Council (ICC), Africa Cricket Association (ACA) and UK Sport.
Already running for two years the project has been an unabashed success, with the UCA establishing relationships alongside District local Governments with a clear determination to use sport as a tool for community cohesion amongst young people in the war recovering districts of Arua, Gulu and Lira in Northern Uganda.
With an eye on the future, the project currently engages with 33 schools to deliver its work, has trained 96 teachers to coach and provides the inclusive and inspirational opportunity to take part in sport to over 5,200 children and young people.
We spoke to Justine Ligyalingi, Chief Executive of the Uganda Cricket Association, to discuss what the project is about, its impact and what he wants for the future of both the project and those who benefit.
Can you explain what the project is about and what it is trying to achieve?
Cricket for Peace is a project that we set up in partnership with UK Sport, the ICC and the ACA. It currently covers Arua, Gulu and Lira in Northern Uganda with the aim of giving youngsters the opportunity to participate in the sport of cricket and to use the medium to pass on life messages and health advice to these youngsters recovering from the war.
What has the impact of the project been so far?
It’s been unbelievable, we’re so over-whelmed by the success and scope of the project as we’ve already reached many of our targets and goals that we set from the beginning. Our success is very simple, the project has been embraced by the participants, who’ve in turn received immense support from their communities and the schools that we work with leading to more and more children and young people wanting to come on board. We don’t have the resources to do that at the moment, so very over-whelmed!
What do you hope the future will bring for the project and for those that it looks to engage?
I think for the future we want to see the young boys and girls who’ve participated progress within their community and society after recovering from the traumas of war affecting their worlds, I’d also like to see their cricketing ability improve! Quite simply, for me, it would be most gratifying if the power of sport - through cricket – helped to positively impact the lives of these children and young people.
Finally, could you give an example of someone that the project has especially helped?
One story that I would like to share is of a young disabled girl, a youth who lost a leg through amputation as a result of war. She turned up to the cricket ground, initially standing on the sides, she asked to join in, eventually taking on enjoying the game from one leg and is very much a stalwart of the project. Sport is embracing and helps these youngsters to forget about the memories of war, if only for a short time, and to enjoy the sport like their peers around the world. We are extremely inclusive, however, we feel and want to reach out to many more and it’s in our plans and hopes to be able to.