Our Friends from Fields of Dreams Uganda share their story,
Fields of Dreams Uganda
Jesus is Key Religious & Inspirational Blog
My name is Brian Fleming and I work with a non-profit organization called Fields of Dreams Uganda. Our mission is to provide hope and empowerment to the vulnerable children of Uganda through Soccer and Education. It is a great organization that I am so proud to serve with! We do a lot of various programs at our 9 partner schools that serve over 6500 students in Uganda. And I invite you to check out our website for details into all of these programs and how you can get involved as well. But for me, it was the connection through sports that drew me to this organization back in 2014. And that’s what I’m going to focus on today.
Sports always played a huge part in my life growing up. For me, it was baseball. The diamond was one of the few places where I truly felt myself. Even as I grew up and competition made the game more and more intense, it was still a game. A game that brought me joy and life-long friends. A game that taught me values such as discipline, teamwork, and working for something larger than yourself…values that still guide me to this day.
This is no different for the kids in Uganda. Except, in Uganda, it is soccer that is king! That is why we use soccer. It is the perfect way to connect with a child. It is the sport that allows these kids to be just that…kids! A lot of worry and pressure is heaped on the children we serve at a very young age. Often orphaned by one or both parents, unsure of whether their family will have enough funds to continue paying their school fees week in and week out, and living on (maybe) one small meal of porridge or posho a day, these kids face more adversity by the time they are in 4th grade than we do in our entire lifetime. And all that leads to an average drop-out rate of over 60% before the 6th grade. But soccer is the one constant where these kids can forget about those worries and just play the game they love. That’s why we use soccer as the first touchpoint in these kids lives. Our programs include: providing soccer gear (most of these kids get their first pair of cleats through our organization), certified coaching from Ugandan coaches (some of which are graduates of our programs), 4 tournaments a year, and opportunities for travel within and outside of Uganda for our select team players at various age groups.
In addition, we bring in Character Development training within all of our Soccer and Education programs. Gender inequality and abuse is a reality of the past (and to some extent the present) in Uganda. But we want the kids we serve to be the generation of change in their country. We want the young women we serve to know that they are just as valued and important as their male counterparts (both on the pitch and in the classroom). We want them to never be afraid to be the Strong, Unique, and Beautiful Women of S.U.B.S.T.A.N.C.E that God created them to be. We want them to have the same opportunities to see their dreams become reality as their brothers of Uganda. And for the young men, we want to remind them in every facet of life to be Men of I.N.T.E.G.R.I.T.Y. and show kindness and respect to their peers, especially their sisters of the soil. These “slogans” have become mantras for our soccer teams and our partner schools. It is even starting to bleed out into the communities around them as well!
I could go on and on but I’ll stop there (again visit our website above to check out more of our work).
We get involved in and provide a broad assortment of various programs all aimed to empower the kids we serve to dream their biggest dreams and then support them as much as possible along their journey to reaching those dreams. And all that work is carried out by our amazing Ugandan staff.
But what I’ve learned most from this organization in terms of what I think “mission” really means, is that our job is to just be present. We as volunteers who travel to Uganda or as the U.S. Board of this organization aren’t doing ground-breaking work. What I’ve learned time and time again is that our job is to just show up, listen, and love the people we get to meet. That is really what God calls each of us to do, no matter where your mission field may be. He doesn’t call on us to perform miracles or do earth-shattering work. He wants us to show up for somebody, give them a listening ear, and love them right where they are. And for us, each time we show up we get to tell a kid that they are loved, that their life matters, and we believe in them. For most, that may be the first time they get to hear those words. It may seem like a drop in the bucket. But it is a drop in THEIR bucket. And after enough drops, their bucket will eventually overflow!
Hope is a hard thing to quantify. But when I hear words such as the following from a kid that we are sponsoring through Secondary School, I have no doubt that what we are doing is truly changing lives: “I lacked parental love and care. And for people to be proud of me, now my life is different!”