August 2, 2021

Sports as an inspiration for young adults with disabilities in uganda

Thanks to the “Game Connect” project, funded by the Olympic Refuge Foundation, Habamungu and Bruno have learned that they can do much more than expected

By Solomon Tomusiime

What do Paralympics athletes Becca Meyers, Michael Roeger, and Ambra Sabatini have in common with Congolese refugees Bruno Kyasiimire and Habamungu Kahunda? They never let their disability stop them from achieving their dreams. Born with only one arm and one leg due to a congenital limb defect, Bruno, who lives in the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Uganda, had to deal with mobility challenges and prejudice, even among his peers, since he was young.

"“Nobody wanted to wait for me because of my slow mobility,” remembers the 17-year-old boy. “They used to say it would take too much time if they had to wait. It was tough to do anything, and growing up, my condition affected the way I looked at my life”.

Habamungu’s story is very similar. She lost her ability to walk early in childhood after suffering from paralysis caused by a high fever. She was stigmatized in her neighborhood in Kampala.

“I used to stay the whole day indoors because children laughed at me when I crawled,” says the 21-year-old girl. 

Bruno and Habamungu’s journeys began to change in 2020 when they were invited to join the “Game Connect” project. Funded by the Olympic Refuge Foundation and implemented by AVSI with the Uganda Olympic Committee, UNHCR, Right to Play, and Youth Sport Uganda, the project is making it possible for more than 10,000 young adults from the refugee and host communities to actively participate in indoor and outdoor games and improve their psychosocial well-being.

Bruno and Habamungu are among the 148 young people with disabilities who are part of the project. “Game Connect” gives them the chance to enjoy life with peers. In Bruno’s case, the project made it possible for him to participate in soccer practices and games and allowed him to be fully integrated into a team where he is welcomed and respected.

 “I was surprised when I received the invitation to participate in a sports project because I only have one arm and one leg,” says Bruno. “It was unbelievable! I enjoy being here. I can play soccer with other boys who have both legs, and I’m making new friends.”

Thanks to the project, Habamungu receives the visit of her coach Viola, who comes to her home twice a week. She offers counsel and inspires Habamungu to practice sports to keep her body active.

“Since I fell in love with netball, I am always looking forward to my coach’s visit.” celebrates Habamungu. “Her visit gives me the chance to share my daily experiences. She also helps me exercise to keep myself healthy and to have fun.”  

“Game Connect” will run for 36 months ending in 2023. The project is implemented in the refugee settlements of Rwamwanja, Palabek, Adjumani, and the refugee host communities within Kampala. The goal is to reach over 10,000 young people affected by displacement by 2023.