For the first time ever, we organized a ladies Chess clinic that was championed by WCM Phiona Mutesi. It ran for one week and it attracted 460 girls from the Slums and surrounding communities.
Phiona was a great inspiration to the girls and she shared her experiences with the entire group both in the mornings before the Chess Sessions and in the evenings where there was also a question and answer session. She encouraged fellow girls to believe in themselves no matter how big the challenges might be and that they should never lose hope because it is the only component that shall enable them to overcome. It was a great Clinic, the first of its kind in Uganda.
On top of providing the children with meals for the whole week, each of the girls was given a small Chess set to enable them to train and practice what they have learned and a beginners Chess Packet to allow them to revise and discover more of the sport.
All together we had 15 Chess facilitators who helped in running the Chess Clinic. We grouped the children according to ages and each facilitator had to teach.
Gulu is located in the Northern part of Uganda, which is an area that has suffered a two decade Civil war that ended in late 2007. Following the training the Chess teachers conducted in Gulu (end of 2013), the “Smart Girl Chess Project” kicked off!
The “Smart Girl Chess Project” is a program created by Beatriz Marinello, she has been key in obtaining support from the ‘SAC’ to help fund the programs and provide materials. In addition, she is helping secure donated equipment to help with the programs. The “Smart Girl” program focuses it’s efforts on empowering girls socially using chess as a tool that could help make them become future productive people in their communities.
These chess programs are enrolled in five different community centers: Koro, Lajwatek, Pugwiny and Lagutu. Of the 15 teachers that were taught, five of them were assigned to lead each of the community centers; they are receive support and help from others who come in as volunteers.
The teachers are doing great work in inspiring the younger girls and teaching them how to play the game. I managed to capture some photos during the chess programs in some of the community centers. Irene Atek is teaching girls plus a few boys from Lagutu community, the program is attended by 30 children on average.
At the Lajwetek community center, the program has registered 50 children on average and this is being managed by Milly Adokorach plus two volunteers. Despite some challenges regarding equipment, the program is running smoothly. The Social Action Commission will be providing the necessary equipment to assist with this and our Chair is also looking for other resources to obtain the necessary support.
At the Koro community center the lead person is Judith Ayoo. The program is attended by 39 children on average and is being held under a container shelter.
A the Pugwiny community center, we have no structure as of yet and the chess program is conducted next to the huts, on the ground where we lay papyrus mats and place the Chess boards for the students to practice.
Jennifer Akello is the lady leading the program at this center. The turn out of the children from the community is huge and all the children love the program.
At all the centers, the children are brought by their guardians as they go to work in their gardens! Sports Outreach established these centers to help mentor and care for the children who would have instead been left in the huts by themselves thus, making them vulnerable to many things!
The children are given some pre-school learning and now; a great empowering tool of Chess that is basically aimed at developing their memory, improving concentration and logical thinking with a purpose of promoting Imagination and creativity to enhance self-esteem and problem solving capabilities.
A special thanks to the Chairperson of the FIDE Social Action Commission (SAC), WIM Beatriz Marinello. Beatriz is currently working with United Nationals Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women “UN Women” to help empower women around the world. Partnering with the Uganda Chess Federation to empower children especially girls who are always marginalized; is a vital intervention not only for Chess game development but also for personal and community development.
Report prepared by: Robert Katende