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Research shows OA Projects Programs work

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July 16, 2012 – Research shows OA Projects Programs work

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A year ago today, I was sitting by the side of a dusty field that was more dirt than grass watching about one hundred teenagers play soccer.  It was the first week of my masters research focused on OA Projects and the results of soccer based peacebuilding in Gulu, Uganda.  Although the results of my research will be released publically in the near future, I thought this anniversary was a great opportunity to share a bit of what I saw with all of you supporters of VOLO Athletics.

The balls you purchased were distributed prior to the start of my research to five Gum Marom (Equal Opportunity in Luo the local language) programs around the city as well as some schools.  My research focused mainly on the five programs, using the balls donors purchased, that were specifically using soccer to promote peacebuilding.  These programs combined football instruction and play with peacebuilding and cultural revival activities.

For a few months I followed the program in various parts of Gulu and talked to the players, coaches and their families.  At each location the first thing I saw was the massive change when the coach arrived with the balls – the waiting players transformed from a group of sullen teens waiting in the shade to a charged group of athletes, laughing, and playing together, male and female, war traumatized and not, displaced and local all playing together.

My research found that while soccer instruction and access to soccer equipment drew the youth to Gum Marom’s programming, they ended up really enjoying the peacebuilding and conflict management training that was included.  Additionally, playing together bridged barriers and increased the number of friends and trusted adults for most of the players.  Numerous youth told me how they had shared the weekly lessons and discussions with their family or how they had incorporated what they learned into their daily life and their relationships with others.  The chance to learn some new soccer skills may have brought the youth to Gum Marom but they ended up learning so much more.

Speaking now as someone who has been involved with OA Projects, I would like to say thank you to all of our supports who contributed to this program through VOLO Athletics.  Your contributions to Gum Marom programming in Gulu have allowed previously disenfranchised youth to play, but more than that they found a place to belong, to learn and to make friends.  Each of those outcomes goes a long way to creating a more peaceful future in northern Uganda.

Erin Hunt
MA, Human Security & Peacebuilding
Research Focus on OA Projects in Gulu, Uganda

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