Game Connect launch at the Residence of the Ambassador of Italy in Kololo, Uganda

Game Connect Project:

  • Sector: Sports For Protection – Mental Health/Psycho-social and Protection
  • Beneficiaries: Refugee camps in Kampala, Kamwenge, Lamwo, and Adjumani
  • Budget: USD 1,500,000
  • Donor: Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF)
  • Duration:36 Months (August 2020 – August 2023)
  • Target: 10,068 Youths. 70 % (Refugees) &30 %(Local Communities)
  • Implementation partners: AVSI Foundation (Lead Agency), Right to Play, Youth Sport Uganda, Uganda Olympic Committee & United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR)

The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) has funded the Game Connect Project to a tune of USD 1,500,000 for the tenure of three years in Uganda.

Game Connect is aimed to improve the psychological wellbeing and mental health of refugees for youth aged 15-24 years in Kampala, Kamwenge (Rwamanja Refugee settlement), Lamwo (Palabek Refugee settlement), and Adjumani (Adjumani Refugee settlement).

The project is a collaboration between the Olympic Refugee Foundation (funder), AVSI Foundation (Lead Agency) as well as consortium partners as Right To Play, Youth Sport Uganda, Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC), and the United Nations High Commission  For Refugees (UN Refugee Agency).

This project was officially launched at the Residence of the Italian Ambassador in Uganda, Kampala on Friday, 19th February 2021.

This well-attended launch was graced by H.E Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Ambassador of Italy in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Others in attendance included; Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) president William Blick, two cabinet ministers Hon. Hamson Obua (State for Sports) and Hon. Hillary Onek (Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees), Chairman National Council of Sports (NCS) Dr. Donald Rukare, H.E Joel Boutroue (UNHCR Representative in Uganda), Silvestri Giampaolo (AVSI Foundation Secretary), and AVSI Uganda Country Representative John Makoha, among others.

Ambassador Massimiliano lauded the Government of Uganda for the conducive environment and programmes to accommodate Refugees from several countries as Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Somalia plus many others.

He hinted that the  Game Connect project shall create long-lasting continuous process for the host and refugee communities.

Uganda is the leading country on the entire African continent that hosts the highest numbers of refugees and the third in the whole Uganda. To this effect, I thank the Government of Uganda for this initiative. The Game Connect project will create a long lasting continuous process which will generate opportunities of participation for both the host and the refugee communities regardless of their background. We will use sports as a powerful tool to promote inclusion, psychological relief, better health and human connection between the communities. These young people were displaced from their communities, some at very young ages and were deprived of the opportunity to be children and engage in early childhood activities such as play.

H.E Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Ambassador of Italy in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
H.E Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Ambassador of Italy in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi speaks at the launch of Game Connect project in Kololo, Kampala.

Blick disclosed that the different partners have joined forces to improve the well-being of refugees through sports.

We are very happy to see this project launch come through. This is a benchmark on how we will be able to implement the project successfully and to bring public confidence in the activities of Game Connect. As the National Olympic Committee, we are appreciative that sport is being used as a tool for social protection to address part of the National Development Plan III. We have joined forces to improve the well-being of young refugees. We want to make Game Connect a reality.

William Blick, President of Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC)

AVSI Foundation Secretary-General Giampaolo stressed the fact that Uganda is a priority area in Africa because of the big numbers of refugees hosted.

Through the Game Connect project, Giamapolo made it clear that the significance of sport will be made.

Game Connect will emphasize the relevance of sport in improving the lives of vulnerable people. We extend our gratitude to The Olympic Refuge Foundation, Government of Uganda and the all the partners in this project for the chance of a better life for the people in Uganda and for a successful collaboration. AVSI Foundation is committed to promoting the dignity of all individuals especially those at the last mile”

Giampaolo, AVSI Foundation Secretary General
The Game Connect Project launch at the Residence of H.E Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Ambassador of Italy in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi

Desperate situations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic:

UNHCR Representative in Uganda Boutroue hinted about the desperate situations that had been precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda.

Therefore such sports programmes in the Game Connect project will bring back life to close reality as manifested in the Kampala-based Acholi quarters.

This is a very welcome initiative. The need for psycho-social support has exponentially increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lock-down measures. I truly hope that sports activities will bring much-needed relief to a population whose mental health and resilience have been put under severe pain.

Joel Boutroue, UNHCR Representative in Uganda

The Minister of State for Sports Obua equated the Game Connect Project to the Ubuntu philosophy where Uganda (the host) is using the humanitarian aspect to accommodate the homeless people.

Hon. Hamson Denis Obua speaks during the launch of the Game Connect Project in Kampala

Through the sports programmes in the project, Obua added that the sports sector will be enhanced.

The Game Connect project is a good gesture for the refugee population and general communities. The project will have a curtail of activities that will bring together the adolescents. Through the Ubuntu philosophy (I am because we are), our neighbors are being treated well. Also, such programmes will enhance the development of sports.

Hon. Hamson Obua, Minister of State for Sports

Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Onek lauded all the organizers and stakeholders of this project in a special way.

The former 800M runner, high jumper and Uganda Basketball captain of the early 70’s retaliated the value of sports.

Hon. Hillary Onek, Minister of Disaster Preparedness & Refugees addresses the guests

The Game Connect project is very useful to the well-being of refugees in Uganda. Sports is about good health, unity of people,  cultivation of relationships, character building, developing leaders, economic empowerment, and business opportunities. We are therefore humbled by all the parties in play.

Hon. Hillary Onek, Minister of Disaster Preparedness & Refugees

The project takes immediate effect and will last for three years.

Athletics, as well as ball games like football, netball, volleyball, handball, are some of the sports disciplines that will be incorporated in this project.

To be exact, 10, 068 youths or more in the districts of Kampala, Kamwenge, Lamwo, and Adjumani will be involved.

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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