Africa – Day 5

Submitted by: Ron Smith - August 11th, 2006


“It was another full day in Gulu,” said Westmont women’s soccer assistant coach Dan Ribbens who is traveling with the Warriors during their trip to Africa.

“The team split into two different groups and visited two refugee camps outside of Gulu,” continued Ribbens. The camps are a result of a 20-year-old civil war in Northern Uganda. “At both camps, we put on soccer clinics with the children. There were kids everywhere. After the clinic, our players were able to sit underneath some trees, talk with some of the refugees and share their faith.

“It was an eye opening experience,” said Ribbens. “The camp I went to has 17,000 people. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour walking around the camp. There were mud huts with thatched straw roofs, about ten feet in diameter, which were jammed so close together we could hardly fit between them. Each of these huts houses up to 12 people.

“The camp was meant to be a temporary refuge, but the war has gone on so long, the children have never lived anywhere else,” explained Ribbens. “There are only three water wells and everyone must come and pump water from those three wells.

“While we were in the camp, UN relief trucks came into the camp with a military escort,” reported Ribbens. “They delivered large sacks of grain and containers of cooking oil. We could see that many of the containers had US labels. The deliveries, which are made about once a month, were very orderly. We saw other UN trucks headed for Sudan which is only about 25 miles from Gulu.”

In the early afternoon, the team headed back to a room at Pece Stadium where they played yesterday against Hearts United, the East African Women’s Champions. “Esther, the wife of Aloysisus Kyazze, our host in Gulu, prepared a wonderful meal for us,” said a grateful Ribbens. “By the time we finished lunch, the clouds had gone and the sun had made for a hot and humid afternoon. We went back to the Acholi Inn to rest because everyone was tired.

“Later in the afternoon we returned to the Kirombe School where we were to run a soccer clinic for about 12-15 kids,” said Ribbens. The Kirombe School is both a vocational and pre-school run by Sports Outreach Institute, organizers of Westmont’s trip to Africa. The Warriors paid their first visit to the school on Thursday.

“In addition to our group of 12-15 Kirombe kids, another 500-600 children turned out,” reported Ribbens. “Our players divided up so that with every two or three Westmont athletes there were about 50-60 kids. No one had to tell our students to do that. They are doing such a fabulous job reaching out to everyone they meet.”

In the evening, the Warriors made their way to Noah’s Ark, the night time shelter/camp for the invisible children. Instead of staying in their homes at night where there is a risk of abduction, the invisible children leave their homes and travel to the Noah’s Ark camp.

“At one time, Noah’s Ark held 17,000 kids every night,” reported Ribbens. “The danger is less now and there were only several hundred children during our visit. Whenever rebel forces are near Gulu, the number increases into the thousands.”

Sports Outreach Institute, which runs the Noah’s Ark shelter, offers the children Bible school classes. Westmont athletes were able to interact with some of those classes.

Tomorrow the Warriors will depart Gulu around 5:45 a.m. and head back to Kampala. Their goal is to make it back in the afternoon so that they can participate in the Saturday evening feeding programs which take place in the Kampala slums.