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Students to travel to Uganda to promote youth sports

Marisa Iati | Thursday, March 22, 2012

Twelve Notre Dame students will travel to Uganda for two weeks in May to share their athletic passion and talents with the country’s youth.

Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs for the athletic department, said the trip, co-sponsored by the Institute for Educational Initiatives and the athletic department, is focused both on educational research and promotion of youth athletics.

“The purpose of the whole effort is to work with the Catholic Church and the [Ugandan] Ministry of Education and Sports to share ideas on how sport can be used as a platform for positive social impact,” Dugan said.

Students will visit the towns of Fort Portal, Masaka, Jinja and Kampala to promote physical education and youth sports ministry programs, run a sports camp and discuss potential research of sports’ impact on children, Dugan said.  

The effort comes in the wake of advocacy organization Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012″ campaign. The movement calls for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the head of a Ugandan rebel group who ruthlessly recruits child soldiers.

The film that accompanies the campaign, which went viral this month, received international backlash from critics who publicly claimed the video oversimplifies a complex issue.

Dugan said Notre Dame’s trip will expose students to a different side of Uganda than that portrayed in “Kony 2012.”

“I think our students will be really encouraged by the talents and gifts of the Ugandan youth,” he said. “The course will be about celebrating the incredible human potential of the country.”

The trip will count as an Education, Schooling and Society course for one credit, Dugan said. He said participants will also take two separate one-credit courses beforehand to prepare them for their experiences in Uganda.

Dugan said the trip coordinators consulted with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the National Council of Sports and the Uganda Catholic Secretariat to discuss how the Notre Dame group could best collaborate with them.

“We don’t want this to be a neo-colonial effort and have been very thoughtful about engaging people in Uganda about how we can complement what they are already doing on the ground there to improve physical education in schools and providing more outlets for personal and moral development through sport,” Dugan said.

Dugan said the group will work with the Uganda Catholic Secretariat to develop the sports component of the Secretariat’s youth ministry programs.

“The student group, which includes several student-athletes, will be running a Notre Dame sports camp in the village [of Masaka] to complement the Church’s athletic ministry,” he said.

Dugan said professor Clark Power of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, who also coordinated the trip will share his “Play Like a Champion Today” educational series that uses sports to promote moral development. He said Power had the Notre Dame player handbook adapted for young Ugandan athletes.

“Power will also be spending time running a two-day workshop with the education faculty at Uganda Martyrs University, where he is working on a joint research project to study the impact of sport on child development,” Dugan said.

The Catholic Church and the Ministry of Education and Sports welcomed the group’s initiative, Dugan said.

“The Church sees sport as a way to engage young people in healthy activities,” he said. “The government sees it as a form of human and community development that will also lead to national and economic development.”

Dugan said he wants the group to approach their work humbly.

“If we walk humbly and serve passionately, then our presence can help support the work of the government and the Church to use sport as a form of growth and development for children in Uganda,” he said.

Dugan said he hoped the trip to Uganda would become an annual effort.

“[The Congregation of] Holy Cross and Notre Dame have been committed to Uganda for years,” he said. “Let’s hope that this is just the beginning for ND Athletics and the Institute for Educational Initiatives.”

Contact Marisa Iati at miati@nd.edu