From Kibera and Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya to Makoko (Lagos, Nigeria) and Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa, one similarity will welcome any first-time visitor to either of these slum communities.
Surreal Showtime: The U-9 Boys Slums Soccer Academy outfit put on a skills show in Kisaasi.
The youth in those areas wake up to every day and live it as if it's their last. There is a calm manner in which the people go about their business without any real sense of entitlement.
The beauty of it all is that not much is expected hence the reason they humbly accept and take everything that comes their way with both hands.
Ugandan case study
The scenario is not any different from Uganda’s Acholi Quarters where the youth warm up to everything within their vicinity with a hope of a better tomorrow – always.
The programmes of the Aliguma Foundation; Slums Soccer, Ndi-Mwana – Cry of A Girl Child and rehabilitation of the Acholi Quarters Playground among others have truly touched the lives of the people in the slums – the youth to be exact.
Today, the beautiful game of soccer is undoubtedly the primary activity in Acholi Quarters with the help of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Foundation For Children through their Sports For Resilience and Empowerment Project (SREP).
The UEFA have donated over 800 balls to the Foundation over the last two years which have trickled down to at least 10 districts in Uganda where the progammes of the foundation are very much alive.
And with the schools on break in Uganda, the foundation has taken advantage of the holiday season to ensure that the underprivileged children stay away from crime and other bad vices by indulging in sporting activities on a regular basis.
Ritah Aliguma, the CEO of the foundation, points out that children from poor families and underprivileged backgrounds are at risk of missing out on opportunities that sports provides because they can hardly take part in organised sports.
Time To Ball: Excitement was abound for the little ones on arriving at Victory Turf, Kisaasi.
Participating in organised sports has been associated with increased levels of physical activity which can improve physical and mental health.
Reward for youngsters
And as a reward to the children that had been training every weekend during the school term, Aliguma Foundation rewarded the children and youth with a one-day training camp at Victory Turf in Kisaasi - a residential area in Kampala City.
Hopping onto the bus, small scenery on the 30-minute road trip to Kisaasi – at least seven kilometers away from their usual home comfort and getting a chance to play on the all-green artificial turf was a new experience that elated the youngsters.
"Not everyone gets the opportunity to play. You should thank God that you have such an opportunity. We train from the slums but now we want to expose you to better facilities. If you stay focused, you will play even on better grounds," said Ritah Aliguma while talking to more than 50 children of Slums Soccer Academy that were in attendance while encouraging them to be resilient and prayerful.
She also lamented on the inadequate facilities, Aliguma said that children from less affluent backgrounds can no longer afford to participate in youth programmes because of the costs involved.
Learning Time: The U-12 Boys learnt several ball-work skills from selected elite coaches.
Sport is business
If the youth don’t get to play, they miss out on opportunities to learn teamwork, build ethics and character.
"For any child to take part, they now need support to subscribe to a sports academy. But with pressing financial demands, families cannot afford the programmes. That is why as a Foundation we have taken it upon ourselves to give our own a chance to play in better facilities like this one here,” added Ritah Aliguma who also stressed that sports has become a profit venture that should be taken seriously.
Let's Play: A youngster shows off some of the 400 balls that were donated to the Aliguma Foundation from UEFA Foundation For Children through their SREP Project last month.
Among the academies the foundation supports is Genesis in Mukono and Slums Soccer as well as other communities in Masindi, Soroti, Bulenga, Mpigi and Entebbe.