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Uganda celebrates the International Inspiration Programme

The International Inspiration Programme (IIP) was born from Seb Coe’s 2005 Promise in Singapore to ‘reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport’. ‘By 2012, the original target to reach 12 million children and young people had been far surpassed and this ground-breaking programme has continued to inspire and impact upon the lives of children and young people around the world.

With the programme – delivered in partnership by UK Sport, British Council and UNICEF – coming to an end, the people of Uganda have been celebrating its astounding success. Bringing together the ‘Three Ps’ of Policy makers, Practitioners and Participants, Uganda marked the closure of the IIP and invited delivery partners to handover the flame.

We spoke to Jasper Aligawesa, General Secretary of the National Council of Sports in Uganda, and Omara Apitta, Commissioner for Physical Education & Sports and Chair of IIP Uganda, to discuss sport, the IIP, their impact within Uganda and what the future holds.

Can you tell us about sport and its role within Ugandan life?

[JA]: Sport changes people’s lives, regardless of whether they’re from the ghettos or whether they come from privileged backgrounds. It also acts as a bridge between these two groups, bringing them together for one common purpose. Sport in Uganda has no colour, no religion, no disability, no gender. It is one. The power of sport has been phenomenal; it has increased the patriotism and pride of our people within our nation.

[OA]: Let’s first talk about sport. Sports are a big convening tool for society, cutting across society and reducing barriers faced by people of all ages. Uganda is a country divided by barriers – whether they are political, religious, ethnic, gender – but, through sport, we have been able to bring people together.

How has Uganda, its people and its politicians, embraced IIP?

[JA]: At the heart of IIP is the community. Whether it’s the ‘people’ or the ‘politicians’ they’re all involved and can all be inspired.

[OA]: It’s been a big success because IIP has targeted the youth, their parents and the surrounding communities. There were 12 districts involved across Uganda and you the success through little things, such as parents sending their children to school, increasing the likelihood of not wasting their youth. It’s also had a number of unexpected impacts, developing and delivering national championships in athletics, cricket handball, netball and football.

Our political leaders have embraced the IIP since the beginning, signing the Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 in partnership with the British High Commissioner in Uganda. Even though the project has come to end, with their help, we will continue to fund into the future.

What has the impact been?

[JA]: There has been so much change, so much impact, with most of it within the schools as the IIP caused a massive ripple effect of positivity and opportunity.”

[OA]: We’ve touched upon a few achievements already; there’s been a mobilisation of underdeveloped regions - such as Karimojong; improved enrolment of education, community cohesion, developing national leagues, competitions and championships. The IIP has helped us to focus on inclusive sport, whether it is gender, disability or any other issue. Everyone is welcome to participate. For us, one of the most important achievements was adopting and developing the Child Safety and Protection policy. Under this, we work to provide every child with access to a safe and high quality area of play – this has been taken on by the Ministry and we strive to embed this within law.

The IIP also helped train well over 63 coaches and 2,200 competent and confident teachers and young leaders, and is helping to deliver a sustainable legacy here in Uganda, with the training and knowledge passed down to others with the hope that they will feed into our sporting system.

It’s been three fantastic years for the IIP. We want to continue to build upon our success and to give more children the right and opportunity to participate and access sport in their community. Our partners in the IIP have helped us to realise we should build our facilities and structures, to train our coaches and young leaders in order to benefit our schools, communities and athletes.”

What the celebration and coming together of the ‘Three Ps’ made clear is that this may be the end of one journey, but it is evocatively the start of another in which Uganda will be proud to carry on the flame of IIP and continue to embrace the legacy of the London 2012 Games.