The Role of Sport and Physical Activity in the Development of War-Affected Youth in Northern Uganda
Dean M. Ravizza
A generation of children in Northern Uganda has been inflicted with unspeakable atrocities. For the past 20 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has sought to overthrow the Ugandan government. In doing so, they have abducted more than 30, 000 children terrorizing, manipulating, and forcing them to be weapons of terror against their families, communities, and countrymen. Yet, these children of war are not the only victims of this conflict. Because most abductions by the LRA occur at night, thousands of children are forced to leave their communities in fear and walk several miles to the safety of the nearest town center in search of a safer place to sleep at night. In doing so, many of these children are subjected to violence, rape, and other deviant behaviors. The conflict has uprooted an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes and villages forcing them into camps with poor security, a lack of sanitation, and little employment opportunities. As a result, the children receive little opportunity to engage in activities relevant to their culture including sport, dance, and music.
This presentation provides an overview of many of the unique psychosocial needs of a group of formerly abducted children (child soldiers) during their resocialization period at a child reception center in No. Uganda. The components of the resocialization and reintegration process undergone by the children at the center are described in addition to the results of focus group interviews to an intervention of sport and physical activity. An overview of the parallels drawn by the children between their unique psychosocial needs and their participation in the sport component is provided. Second, the presentation discusses the need for quality community-based programs for the war-affected children and provides an overview of the components of a program in development for children specific to this region. This program models an extended-day program using sport, dance, and music as the basis for social mobilization with an objective of fostering resiliency through goal-setting and conflict resolution activities.
Dean Ravizza is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Health, Physical Education, and Human Performance at Salisbury University. He received his doctorate from Virginia Tech University where he also lectured in the School of Education. He recently spent 11 months in Uganda working with various NGO’s and U.N. agencies in monitoring and evaluating sport for development programs throughout the country. During this time he spent several weeks working directly with formerly abducted children at the GUSCO child reception center in Gulu, Uganda implementing sport programs to meet the unique psychosocial needs of the children. He is currently collaborating in the development of community-based programs for war-affected children in the region. Prior to this, he has taught, coached, and administered sports and physical education programs in Tanzania, Hungary, and Venezuela.