Having engaged the refugee and host communities for over two years, on 25th January 2023, the Game Connect project brought together over 400 youth from five refugee settlements in Uganda—Palabek, Kyangwali, Rwamwanjja, Adjumani, and Kampala—for an annual sports gala.
The theme was "Sport for better mental health and a common identity," with a focus on youthful women, girls, men as well as persons with special needs in a sport for protection showcasing.
The event which took place at the Palabek Refugee Settlement, Lamwo District in the Northern Uganda was adorned by a delegation from the Olympic Refuge Foundation, Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister, the Game Connect consortium (AVSI Foundation, Youth Sport Uganda, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Uganda Olympic Committee, and Right to Play), District Local Government representation from the five locations, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support partners, and the local leadership and residents from the Palabek community.
The annual event featured demonstrations of dissimilar sports disciplines in football and netball, which were officiated by the Federation of Uganda Football Association and Uganda Netball Federation—the governing bodies of football and netball in Uganda. All five locations presented a team for each discipline—a total of ten teams composed of males, females, and persons with special needs, from which the Adjumani side were crowned champions of the football tournament while the Kampala team was victorious in the netball competition.
The youth embraced the opportunity to display their talents in sports, and through fair play, they exemplified the Olympic principles of excellence, respect, and solidarity.
"It's incredible to see refugee and host youth meet and play together with such remarkable participation and performance, as well as the collaboration among the consortium partners which contributed to this colorful event and added value to the activity," said Jojo Ferris, Head of the Olympic Refuge Foundation.
About the Game Connect project
This is a unique and timely initiative. This program should be replicated around the worldPaul Tergat, a board member at Olympic Refuge Foundation, also regarded as one of the most accomplished long-distance runners of all time.
Over the course of two years of implementation, the Game Connect project has reached more than 10,000 youth (70% refugees and 30% nationals)—focusing on improving their abilities and capacities to support their psychosocial wellbeing and mental health through improved access to safe sport, building new or strengthening existing social and support networks, including those from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, plus working with and ensuring district-level officials appreciate and advocate for sport for protection initiatives.
"Since we camped in Lamwo, energy, fun and friendly conversations have shown that we can live in harmony with people from any culture and nationality. This event teaches us life skills and how we can build relationships with people. We have exchanged contacts with many of the soccer players, and we will connect even after today. We love Game Connect!" reacted Nhial Gatkuok, an 18-year-old refugee from South Sudan residing in Adjumani District in Uganda’s West Nile Region.
The Game Connect project delivers structured sport for protection activities that underline thirteen life skills that include a sense of belonging, coping with stress and emotions, self-awareness, self-control, relationship building, citizenship and accountability, among others. These attributes enable the project to advance social cohesion, promote inclusion, foster peaceful coexistence, and boost the resilience of refugee and host community youth (15-24 years) in the five refugee hosting districts of intervention dispersed across the country.
"This is a unique and timely initiative that engages both male and female refugee and host youth, and those with special needs; it's intriguing. This program should be replicated around the world, and I would love to see this happening in my country, Kenya," declared Paul Tergat, a board member at Olympic Refuge Foundation, also regarded as one of the most accomplished long-distance runners of all time.
“Seeing the transformation that sport for protection has created in the young people with their esteem, self-awareness and improvement in conflict resolution is impressive. The impact that the Game Connect coaches have had on the youth both with their Mental Health and Psychosocial Support and their talent identification has been visible through their demonstration of fair play and the Olympic values at this annual sports gala,” Lydia Murungi, Consortium Manager.