Changemaker Stories: Birungi Lloyd
The changemaker series are a set of interviews that look to move the spotlight from the usual “project impact and outcomes” of our regular work. This is an opportunity to illustrate the humans behind the projects – those who choose to go above and beyond. We hope it will inspire others to do the same and serve as testimony that however big or small your dream, it is possible to bring positive social change to your community. These are the everyday heroes in the Dream Building Fund Programme.
Today, in honour of World Children Day we hear from Birungi Crian Lloyd, our project leader from Hoima, Uganda. He was only 24 when he first got involved in the project he initiated and now leads in 13 different schools. His focus is education. He wants to use table tennis to ensure children from the same area he grew up in have access to a better life through education. What he does is inspiring, and his actions show what one can do on this day, "A day to re-imagine a better future for every child".
How he started at the age of 24
Having grown up in Hoima, Birungi´s project "Education for success" runs in 13 schools in the district. A teacher by profession and as he puts it thanks to a bit of luck, a product of the local school system. He currently works for the local Hoima government, but he also dedicates a lot of his time to HONECRIC – Hoima Network of Child Rights Clubs, an initiative, created by a group of teachers to find solutions to childrens rights in the area. The focus of their work is to support children especially those with disabilities and improving the attitudes of the community towards persons with disabilities in schools and homes.
“My background, I am not a table tennis player. I was selected to attend a Youth Leadership Camp in 2013. There, I got inspired after the Doha camp. I discovered table tennis and thought it’s a perfect sport for boy, girls and persons with disabilities. It was the sport I was looking for a to attract children and keep them in school.”
The UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Doha was created to support young leaders and teachers by giving them access to the theoretical and practical training needed to improve both their projects and their own professional progress, and by supporting them once they go back to their communities. The goal was to create role models and promote the use of sport as a tool for development and peace.
“My focus was to look at those boys and girls leaving school early, they get married too early and have children, or are in the street. When I came back from the camp, in the first place HONECRIC embraced the idea, but because it is new, they told me to try first to test how we could implement this with a small group, so ITTF sent us a few racquets and balls, so we started with that in schools, the children liked the game and the teachers supported the project and we found a donor who gave us a table. Once we had a real table the children were very excited. ITTF was following our growth and encouraged us to apply for funding and we did, and this meant we could expand the project to five schools. The children wanted to play so they would go to school. We then started seeing some of them getting better and better.so we started sending some of them to tournaments here and there in Uganda. The numbers of participants in table tennis have increased a lot and this means more children attending primary school regularly."
“I am motivated to keep the children in school because I studied in local schools, but I was lucky, I was supported by different people for my fees. I know others don’t have these chances, because for me, if my parents could not afford, I sometimes had a family friend or someone who gave me support. I know how the children think, most of the time the children are bored and because they are not exposed to the outside world, they dont know why education is important. For a lot of them, it is hard to be motivated to stay in school. We have seen and increase in school attendance since the program started and more children finish their primary cycle. We try to find a scholarship for some to attend secondary school.
We look as education as a brighter future for the children and the community because, education is a way to combat early pregnancy, crime, harm the environment. When someone drop out of school in Hoima, the activities they normally do to survive often harms the environment. They do lumber cutting, timber cutting, cultivation in the swamps, they go to hunting and poaching. They cannot read and the choices they have are limited so either they harm the environment to make small money or they become criminals. For the girls it is very bad, you find girls 18 years old they have already 3 children or 4 children but they cannot work, she cannot afford to look after these children or pay for their fees.
Whereas the ones in our program, they all want to do something, they have dreams and aspirations. One of our girls who got a scholarship to secondary school for example, she come here she teach, and she wants to become a coach and share her knowledge to other girls."
What does success in your project look like? What challenges do you face and what is the dream?
“Success, we have 4 students who got a scholarship. Now the community knows what we are doing, we dont need to convince anymore, especially in the communities where we have one of the 4 scholars. It helps to have these role models, even the young participants they look up to them because they know them. Also, once the bigger ones can play better, they can start to help the younger ones to learn. Also, parents in the community are starting to know us and support us and so does the district, so its easier for us to go to schools and speak to the responsible persons.
The biggest challenges, we train the teachers and the teachers offer the table tennis sessions but sometimes the teachers get transferred to another school that is not one of the 13 in which we run the program, so we have to train new teachers. Also, we dont have a room, so we use classrooms and have to move the desks and tables for each session.
The dream, long term, we hope that we will be able to develop professional job for the table tennis development, so the older students can coach and get a bit of money. That is why we focus on developing the skills of the children so they can get a scholarship and pass their exams. Also, we hope to find a space for the whole community not just the children but the local business owners who play to train in a centre so that maybe they can support and contribute to the project.”
Birungi leaves us on some wisdom from his experience targeted at people who want to do something similar, for education and in schools:
“My advice to whoever wants to use table tennis, especially if they are working in the education department in schools. It is important to communicate to the administration and other teachers by explaining that a program like this can create a high attendance population to the school. Then you can explain that having a comprehensive program, to get the attention of all the children, it is easier to keep the children coming to school. Bringing table tennis makes it more comprehensive because it is not a common sport like football where some already know how to play and others don´t, here everyone is learning. This is a good argument for them to convince of the program in the beginning. After once you have successful scholarships, then people understand the project.”
On 20 November, we thank Birungi along with all our project leaders and coaches for helping children everywhere re-imagine a better world. How about you? What will you do to ensure children have a better tomorrow?
Learn more about the project in Hoima, Uganda: HERE