Olympic Refuge Foundation Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary of Game Connect Programme in Uganda
International Olympic Committee news
During their recent visit to Uganda, Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) representatives attended the Game Connect Sports Gala marking the second year of the programme. More than 400 refugees and young people from five settlements across the country came together at the Palabek Refugee settlement in Northern Uganda for some friendly competition and to promote sport for better mental health and community identity. The Kampala settlement took the trophy for netball, while Adjumani won the football tournament. Every team was mixed gender and inclusive of people with disabilities.
Game Connect has reached more than 10,000 young refugees and youngsters in the host community, by using a variety of sports activities and games to help them acquire strategies to support their own mental health and psychosocial well-being and learn how to apply these in their daily lives. The programme also works with coaches, parents and community leaders to create a sustainable and lasting social support network.
Paul Tergat, ORF Board Member and IOC Member, said: “This event demonstrated the very best of sport. I’ll never forget the way everyone has come together. It doesn’t matter whether you come from Congo, South Sudan or Kenya, Game Connect has showed us the importance of not segregating and learning from one another”. He continued: “This programme is doing some wonderful work meeting the needs of young people on a daily basis, improving their mental health, connecting them with their communities, and giving them the opportunity to thrive through sport. This is why the Olympic Refuge Foundation is so pleased to support this consortium of partners.”
Lydia Murungi, the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) Foundation’s Consortium Manager for Game Connect, added: “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 also been visible through their display of fair play and all the Olympic values at this annual sports gala in the Palabek refugee settlement."
Game Connect: the ORF’s flagship programme
The ORF has invested over USD 1.5 million in the programme, which started in August 2020 and will run for three years. To deliver this programme, the ORF brought together a consortium of organisations, which included the AVSI Foundation, Right to Play, Youth Sport Uganda, the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. The programme has demonstrated that sport is crucial in increasing resilience and promoting a culture of peace and social cohesion between refugees and host communities. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) also contributed USD 250,000, which allowed Game Connect to expand to include the Kyangwali settlement.
Away from the field of play, the consortium took advantage of the opportunity to reflect on the programme evaluation thus far and plan for the future of Game Connect, ensuring that young refugees from across Uganda will continue to have access to safe sport, which increases their resilience and improves their mental health.
Improving mental health of young displaced people
Uganda hosts the most refugees in Africa, with refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi (UNHCR reference). Young people joining Ugandan communities can feel disconnected unwanted, and often suffer from depression, anger, low self-esteem and other mental health issues.
The Game Connect programme delivers structured sport-for-protection activities to increase the resilience of young refugees aged 15 to 24, in the Adjumani, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kyangwali, Lamwo and Palabek settlements, while also promoting a culture of peace and social cohesion between the refugees and members of the host communities.
Supporting young displaced people 365 days a year
Established by the IOC in 2017, the ORF aims to help improve the quality of life of displaced and disadvantaged children and young people worldwide by developing safe places for them to play and practise sport. Working in close collaboration with UNHCR and the relevant partners and local authorities on the ground, the ORF also helps develop sporting activities and social development projects that can be implemented in a sustainable way within these safe environments.
Since launching, the ORF has invested more than USD 6 million in support to programme-implementing partners, and the development of technical resources to enhance the scale and quality of sport for protection programming. It has coordinated 13 programmes in 10 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Türkiye and Uganda. As a result, more than 200,000 young people have so far benefited from sports programmes designed to improve their well-being and social inclusion. Its goal is to provide one million young people affected by displacement with access to sport by 2024.