October 31, 2010

Final Field Reflection: Uganda

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:19 pm by kampala2capetown

By Michael Zuckerman, Uganda Field Coordinator

For the 2010 World Cup program I was stationed in a slum of Kampala the capital of Uganda. The first thing I noticed as we embarked on the grassroots program was that there was plastic (they call it poly) EVERYWHERE!!!  Around the community screening site and across the city they just throw plastic on the ground not thinking anything of it – I asked a food vendor if he had a bin to take my trash and he lost it laughing was clapping and hitting his knee.  But that is the consciousness here.

With this ground reality I decided to give environmental sustainability as the theme working with our community host, the Kybando Vocational Training Center, a vocational school that is helping kids gain technical skills in the Kyebando section of Kampala. They never considered poly being something to tackle.  They burn it all or it goes on the street or in the streams. With hundreds of attendees to our live screenings of the World Cup matches within the community center we saw it was an opportunity to organize an environmental clean-up.

Between World Cup matches we mobilized a massive crowd to go around Kyebando and clean up all the plastic and trash that is everywhere.  We had over 150 people including students, community workers, local politicians, street kids, youth elders… everyone.  We gathered 30 rice sacks of trash.  Things don’t always go according to plan in Africa, but this was such a success.  When trying to talk to people about plastic it often feels like they don’t see the big deal, but today with a united force we did an amazing amount of work to clean but even more to raise consciousness.  We named the street the center is on, put in signs that say litter free zone, imagine a better future.

We were able to do so many cool things around the environmental cleanups and World Cup screenings. A local community member started making soccer balls out of plastic and giving them out to kids. What started as a small idea turned into a craze around the community with hundreds of balls being made. I also gave speeches during half time about environmental issues and later found an even more effective to feature local citizens in talks.

Through the excitement of the World Cup program and our ability in providing the community with a safe space to watch the matches empowered me to make meaningful political and media contacts. Through these high level contacts and connection to the grassroots community, the Kampala 2 Cape Town enabled powerful civic engagement. The culmination of this was the protest over an unsafe crossing space on a new road nearby the community screening site. Many lives were being lost due to a lack of road safety rules and so I was able to organize a massive protest which included me being interviewed on the most popular morning show in Uganda.

Overall the Kampala 2 Cape Town experience was special for me as an American and the Kyebando community as we both utilized the first World Cup in Africa as an entry point to engage and then ultimately change the community for the better.   The clean ups, plastic soccer balls and a crossing guard have continued since the project ended.  Additional funds to support the legecy projects of Kampala to Capetown  will show the community that progress can continue.  The crossing Guard has greatly reduced the number of deaths at the deadliest intersection in Uganda.  He required just $2.20 US and is appreciated by old and young.  Plastic Bag Balls (Buevera Balls) are continuing to be made and purchased form children for $0.40 each.

 

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