A group from the HAT FUND (HF) just returned from visiting Uganda and we can safely say that the trip was an eye-opener. We were amazed by the warmth in which we were welcomed in spite of the disparity in the life we lead in U.S. to the life that Africans lead.
The aspirations of the youth in Africa are no different from youth anywhere else in the world. Very simply, they seek to better their lives. According to a McKinsey Report “Finding opportunities for young people is a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population — more than 600 million young people — is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability.” (Source: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/)
Indeed the HF community is extremely motivated by the above and that’s because at HF, our credo has always been that when you open up a child’s world to knowledge, skill, and aspiration, you open up a world of opportunity for the child and that makes a better world for all of us.
There are many challenges in Africa and each of them needs to be tackled simultaneously in several ways by several. One proven way to tackle those challenges and promote development is through sports; the intensity with which any society engages itself in sport can be a measure of the society’s overall health and development. Even the United Nations has recognized that sports can be a tool of development. There is, in fact, a Special Adviser on Sport for Development in the Office of the UN’s Secretary-General.
So, what’s our action plan? It is commonly said that there are several ways to peel an orange, so we will do what we do best – we will use the sport of tennis as the medium to provide African youth with the window of opportunity to break-out from the cycles of generational poverty. However, because we only have a limited management bandwidth and financial means, we will begin in Uganda.
Our plan for Uganda is to engage ourselves at several levels. At one level, we will provide training to a greater number of deserving Ugandan children and at another level we will educate Ugandan tennis coaches so that they in turn may be better trained to coach their wards. For our proposed engagement in Africa, our inspiration and confidence is drawn largely from our hands-on experience in the life of a Ugandan youth, John Lutaaya, whom we have written about in one of our earlier Blogs (“Serve and Return”, January 2016)
This proposed initiative will see us engaged in Uganda in the following ways:
- Conduct coaching workshops and, youth clinics and certification courses for Ugandan tennis coaches
- Continue our on-site consulting and advisory services to add value to existing Youth Tennis Programs. Tena Academy, Kampala is our initial program partner.
- Popularize the sport of tennis and broadcast the benefits of playing the game in communities identified as needing a sport activity.
- Provide support, upgrades and sustenance to tennis programs already existing in the communities and add further playing capacity where possible. Support will include donating essential playing gear, consumables, transportation, school fee subsidies and advice on maintaining the gear and the courts.
In our assessment, the training of coaches will be fundamental and of extremely strategic importance to the success of our mission. Our effort will be to identify coaches through tennis associations and federations, even if they possess only a semblance of knowledge of coaching tennis. We will share our knowledge (in tennis coaching) in order to bridge the deficiencies in their existing coaching methods. Just to give an example, it could be something as simple as teaching those coaches to use smaller courts and slower tennis balls with beginners. Our support will include help in preparing the right kind of courts, using the right kind of racquets, balls and coaching aids, athletic training, body conditioning and prevention of injuries commonly associated with playing tennis.
Parallel to building up coaching capacity, we will be equally focused on discovering Ugandan talent seeking to learn tennis. Each student will not only be taught how to correctly play tennis but more importantly they will be mentored on developing skills and imbibed with knowledge (for example: interpersonal and relationship management skills and responsible citizenship) that will bring them success even off the tennis-court.
As you can well imagine, creating this reservoir of human capital will need funds. Let us not kid ourselves into believing that Ugandans can afford to pay for all this learning. The World Bank estimates that 72% of the African youth population lives on less than $2 a day; to help their families, 30% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work (Source:http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/empowering-youth-in-africa/). Therefore unless there is a promise of decent living and meals-on-the-table, it would be foolishly ambitious of us to expect Ugandan youth to join our programs.
The children are living in such dire circumstances that it is not enough to simply convince them, and their parents, of the big picture of tomorrow but they require convincing that even their needs of today are provided for. It is therefore our mission at HAT FUND that every deserving child should be enabled to choose our program over the drudgery of working for a subsistence wage. We can only do this by ensuring that when a child chooses our tennis program over choosing to go elsewhere to work, that child’s living requirements are taken care of.
We have judged that by far the greatest value will be added to Ugandan communities if we focused our initiative in Ugandan soil itself rather than by embedding Ugandan youth in U.S. facilities. At the apex, the HAT FUND will partner with High Altitude Tennis, LLC in executing the various parts of this initiative. At the grassroots level, Hat Fund will partner with Ugandan coaching institutions (like Tena Academy and others) to bring the greatest good for tennis enthusiasts and novices alike. The ultimate aim is that the sport may provide joy, financial independence and recognition to the Ugandans.
To support this initiative, HF is already adequately prepared with motivated and trained tennis coaches to conduct train-the-trainer workshops and clinics. However to fund our initiative to build the coaching capacity (infrastructure and teaching resources) in Uganda as well as support the children’s basic needs (meals, transportation, and school fee subsidies) we will need the support of benefactors, sponsors and contributors. Therefore, over the next several months, we will be organizing fundraisers and working to develop partnerships to garner funds for our engagement in Uganda.