Scramble for playing spaces

Francis Notes...

Kampala is capital city to the pearl of Africa, Uganda. The city is dense with population and its stories of make shift shelters and open sewers are not news to the trending urbanization world over. The city boasts of a youthful populace with more than 60% lying in the age groups of 15 – 35. The patches of slums and make-shift shelters are littered all over. The affluent have helped themselves to gallant housing in Kololo, Munyonyo and Muyenga. The rest have found accommodation wherever there is space – in Kisenyi, Mulago, and Kamwokya.

In the ribs of the buzzing capital lies a vibrant suburb of Bakuli. Located in the jaws of Namirembe and engulfed by Rubaga and Butikiro roads, the conurbation offers more than meets the eye.

The favela, like Brazilians may refer to it, is as vibrant as its people. Everyone seems to go about their business, and…

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On Soccer and slums

Francis Notes...

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“Who wants to wash today?” The ‘teacher’ asked in a rather commanding voice that defied his plea. Only three of the couple of dozen looked interested in doing laundry, but in his diplomatic prayer; he’s stout with his convictions that all of them had to do the laundry. He continued by speaking to his ‘class’ about the values of hygiene often punctuating his speech with tones of warnings to a few of the ‘learners’ who were disturbing his ‘class.’

The scene is pathetic. The group is seated under an open mabati shade only made possible with pines of poles scantly erected in the dusty ground of a few square metres. The shelter is skirted by open trenches packed with stagnant sewage and with lost and found waste half-full. The area is littered with make-shift wooden and muddy structures that are barely surviving at the mercy of the wind strength. These…

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Superstar? Why not? Maybe! Lessons from the Euro 2016

Being a youth coach I focus  on team building, team play and collective effort rather than individuals. Every player in my team is as important and relevant as the other. Teams win trophies, that for sure, but great players win matches.

I am sure every coach would love to have that one guy who would take the risk. That one who will take matters in his own hands and defy the norm. That special guy who stands out of the lot.

Watching the Euros especially now living in this great football country has been such an experience, a learning experience mostly. I have picked lessons from preparations, presentation, marketing and propaganda. Don’t get me wrong, I have also enjoyed the games.

The performances of N’golo Kante, the French midfield player has mostly caught my eyes. His dynamism, hard work and focus are traits that any aspiring midfield player should try to embrace. The small man shows no fear against any opponent of any size and this should be such a big lesson for the small African players. Joshua Kimmich is one other player, who not only reminds me of Philipp Lahm, the World Cup winning German Captain. At 21 the Bayern player has stepped into shoes that many thought were too big for his inexperience. I am sure his doubters must be hiding their faces in the sand after his last performances. This boy is surely the real deal. Young African players, 20 and below, should surely learn from Kimmich. Not forgetting Renato Sanches, William Cavalho and the brilliance of Tony Kroos.

 

Tony Kroos continues to show “Einfach ist besser”. The German has defined Football with simplicity. His simple but accurate passes are a delight to watch. It is okay to be basic as long as you can do the job. Step overs, elasticos, nutmegs are not his trade, but he makes many players with such attributes look clueless against him. Dear young players, I hope you continue learning from the Real Madrid player.

The German national side boosts no superstars, but as a team I dare you to name any other better. The English for example possessed superstars in the sense of the word, but as a team they were nothing compared to even a less known Iceland. Teams are what makes Football, not mere individuals.

However, watching teams with great superstars has taught me some lessons. I have been left wondering if maybe, maybe, some teams need superstars. A superstar is a person / performer or athlete who enjoys wide recognition, is esteemed for exceptional talents and is sought after for his or her services. Gareth Bale, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Christiano Ronaldo definitely fit this definition of superstars and they have challenged me to change my opinion about superstars and their relevance to teams, especially not so good teams.

Gareth Bale single handedly qualified Wales to the Euros. He still has managed to push them into the semifinals. His performances haven’t been the best, but the way he takes the pressure off his team on to himself is definitely something the Ugandan Cranes would need. I am sure team Wales would not be here without his services. Christiano Ronaldo does the same thing for Portugal. He is THE man in his team and before the ball crosses the goal line, Ronaldo should be the man who is having the last touch. Ronaldo has inspired a whole generation of Portuguese children and youths to take matters in their own hand and play for a better future. He gives back to charity and despite of all the spotlight he has enjoyed and his superstar allures on and of the pitch, he shows that he has never forgotten where he came from. Just as he takes all the praise and all the attention, he takes all the blame, too. No wonder sometimes the Portuguese star loses his mind. But I guess that is what comes with superstar status.

Taking it to Africa and African Football, we have had our shares of superstars, too. Didier Drogba, Samuel Ètoo and most recently Aubameyang. The Gabon international has single handedly inspired and lifted the less known Gabon. He even qualified them to the African Cup of Nations. Aubameyang is also the first African player to win Bundesliga player of the year. The man enjoys king status back home.

Aubameyang.

 

Do we have a superstar in Ugandan Football? Do we need a superstar? Well, I had this conversation with Francis Mugoya, CEO at Watoto Wasoka Uganda. “Maybe, Miya and me!” (referring to himself jokingly). “Miya had a big money transfer to one the European leagues. He earns a good pay and he rarely disappoints on the pitch.” Mugoya thinks Miya is a superstar. Superstars don’t only have character, charisma, presence, attitude, arrogance, confidence and a certain style, but also remain true to who they are and where they come from. I have watched Emmanuel Adebayor play with his village childhood friends on the sand in Togo despite his superstar status.

Superstars not only motivate and inspire their teams but also lift nations. They are role models to children. They stay close to society and give back to their communities. They raise awareness in society:

Christiano Ronaldo has refused to have a Tattoo on his body because he wants to continue donating blood.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovich has tattooed his body with names of people who suffer from hunger. Random names from all over the world.

Ibrahimovic

When I asked Mugoya about younger Ugandan players who he saw and thought could one day be superstars, he was quick to give me names. “Of course, Keziron Kizito, Zaga, Alan Jolly Okello and Mustafa Kizza.” But Mugoya bases this argument entirely on the belief that these boys possess the quality mostly because they are very talented. I certainly would never doubt that talent, in fact I agree that these boys are amongst the most talented young players our country /continent has to offer.  But to me, talent alone does not make you a superstar. There is more to their story than the mere talent. Despite their level of success you can still find someone like Mustafa Kizza participating in any kind or unregulated tournaments or just kicking the ball on some muddy pitch with his community neighbors. What makes them special is not talent alone; it is the passion and the love for the game.

 

So, having players like this, how come we still cannot name one superstar?

We have the talent, that’s for sure. But in my opinion, we need to nurture this talent. We have to show confidence and belief in our boys. We need to help them learn about things like presentation, character building, charisma, social responsibility and most importantly marketing.  We have to educate and prepare the mind in order to make the right decisions as far as the game is concerned. I just do not want to read yet another story of a player who got his contract terminated after getting injured playing in a non regulated match somewhere in Bakuli.

I strongly believe that if things are not working, then you need to change and for sure things have not worked for Uganda since 1978. Let’s borrow a leaf from Ivory Coast. Let’s learn from Gabon and Aubameyang. Maybe we can emulate Wales and Gareth Bale.

Let’s create a superstar and let’s all rally behind him. We need that franchise elite player. Let’s exaggerate, create propaganda if necessary. We need a superstar, that someone who will sale shirts. Someone who will cause traffic jam on the streets of Kampala, and have babies named after him.  Someone who will instill hope and belief in our children. Someone who tells us “You can do it, no matter where you come from.”. Someone, that Eddy Kenzo will sing about in his next song. And here are some names I would consider:

  • Keziron Kizito
  • Zaga
  • Mustafa Kizza
  • Lumala Abdu
  • Mahad Kamalizza
  • Bunjo Sadiq
  • Farouk Miya

 

Just for laughs: Even if England petitioned for a replay against Iceland, on a Tuesday or a Friday afternoon at the Wembley Stadium, they would still loose. The three lions also need a real superstar.

Cranes Match day

Francis Notes...

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The noise is deafening; I can hardly hear my neighbor even when they scream into my ear. The stands are filled to capacity and the micro square accommodating my standing body is the only space there is. With barely a breather to catch air, I cannot afford to sit. On my left is a beautiful lady lost in a passion of blowing her Vuvuzela above humane decibels in a fashion only Kamodo can match. To my right, the guy cheerily jumping in a red strip is face painted black yellow red and his face is hardly recognizable. To my back, a group of about fifty is replicating the famous Poznan celebration.

Not to be left out of the combo, I manage to stretch a hand down my ripped jeans to pick out my whistle and add to the noise, and the roar.

On the outskirts of the playing turf, and…

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Professional football and Ugandan football players

Francis Notes...

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A couple of months ago I landed on a slide-share presentation by now FUFA Moses Magogo “Developing a professional footballer.” All of a sudden I got into this debate with myself on why Ugandan footballers never register success with professional football. We all have our reasons on this regretful tale of Ugandan footballers with professionalism. Indiscipline, mediocrity, grooming, short-sightedness, local coaches, name it.

Over the years so many Ugandans have played professional or semi-professional football. The first lot included Tom Lwanga, Philip Omondi and Hassan Biruma, who played semi-professional football in the Middle East in the 1980s. They were followed by the generation of the 1990’s. Jackson Mayanja ‘Mia Mia’ played for Egyptian top flight team El Masry, and Majid Musisi became the first Ugandan to play professional football in any European league after he signed for French club Stade Rennes at US$180,000, then a record signing for any Ugandan…

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THE SLUMS DERBY 2016

Kamwokya is one of the grandest ghettos of Kampala. It is home to the self-acclaimed multi-millionaire musician Bobi Wine. Kamwokya buzzes all the vibes of a typical slum area. Lost sewage flowing through jumbled trenches. Haphazard shortcuts connecting shanty shelters. Not uncommon are kids spread all over the community beyond count.

It is slums like Kisenyi, Mulago and more patently Kamwokya that drive the passion behind Watoto Wasoka – Football Made in Slums!

Slums Derby is a two – day soccer bonanza to convene, celebrate, feast and reward soccer kids from all over Kampala slums. From Kisenyi, to Mulago, to Busega and to this year’s venue in Kamwokya. Traversing slums, celebrating soccer, giving slum kids fun, play, friends and glory to claim.

Over the previous three editions, the tournament has evolved from just 250 kids to almost triple that number. We have now redefined the event to include girls.

The 21st day of May 2016 was the D-day, the first of the two days that the Slums Derby was run. The slum teams trickled in first sporadically and then exponentially before midday. Watoto Wasoka volunteers screened the teams until midday when the first game kicked off with a fierce sporting contest between two time defending champions Super Heroes from Mulago and eventual runners up African Kids from Natete.

By midday count, we had already registered 40 teams from all over Lubaga, Nakawa, Makindye, Kawempe and Central Kampala. These brought together 630 kids. Sadly though, we had to turn away three teams for overboard late coming.

Throughout Saturday we kicked footballs, we made friends, we cheered along every goal, and savored at every missed opportunity. In the thick of the action, the dust rose and we applauded in equal measure. The kids battled for every ball like it had a disposition on their lives, and we loved every bit. The tackles, the skills, the flair and the passion. This is what defines us; slums and football cannot be put in the same sentence without an interjection of passion. It’s what drives us.

The volunteers were at hand to give support in every single bit of the organization of the tournament. Welcoming teams, screening them, drawing and coordinating fixtures, feeding and drinking water. Volunteers are the heartbeat of all our work. Their contribution needed not be over emphasized.

Under the scorching sun, we lost ourselves in the joy of the beautiful game. We had enough to eat and to drink, and we had something to fight for – The Slums Derby. Games went on until all the five teams in each of the eight groups had played against each other. As light gave way to the dusk, we gathered under the volunteers’ tent to do the mathematics. Who stays on for tomorrow’s round?

On Sunday, 16 boys’ teams turned up for the knock out rounds as teams got every inch closer to glory. These were joined by 10 girls’ teams. The girls’ were drawn in two groups of five each.

As the boys dribbled and scored their way through the rounds of 16’s, quarter and semifinals, the girls were playing their preliminaries, and later on the semis.

It all came down to this. The runs around the pitches, the shots, the goals and the celebrations all came down to one thing – the grand finale. In the boys’ category, African Kids played Uganda Martyrs while Sparta 09 battled Everton in the girls’ category.

By the final whistles, Uganda Martyrs had seen off African Kids 7-6, while Sparta 09 won Everton 5-4 both on penalties. Thereafter, all 50 teams were awarded for their participation with footballs and certificates.

The outstanding players were also rewarded and included Most Valuable Players (MVP) Kakande Jonah (Uganda Martyrs) and Nagadya Naome (Masajja Swat), Top scorers Senyingo Steven (African Kids, 12 goals) and Namata Anita (Al-Phoenix, 5 goals), and goal keepers Kizza Hakim (African Kids) and Nankya Zahara (Sparta 09) in the boys’ and girls’ category respectively.

At the end of the two day event, it mattered less whether you had won or lost. What we took from the tournament is neither Kakande’s tenacity nor Nagadya’s craftiness. What mattered to everyone is that more than 100 girls came to the inaugural Girls’ Slums Derby, that more than 700 kids and girls had the weekend of their lives enjoying the game they love most, at no cost, with food and safe drinking water in the comfort of their own. That all this came down to one of the most feared slum in Kampala was worth endearing.

We dared and we succeeded. It came, it conquered, and Kamwokya will not forget it. To dare bring all this football pomp, fun-fare and buzz and convene it all in the middle of Kampala’s grandest slum more than proves the bond that keeps on pulling football and slums together.

All thanks to everyone who supported in some way, everyone who brought a team, everyone who volunteered, and to everyone who cheered along.

Special gratitude we bestow to everyone who individually donated a euro or two, and to Lise-Lotte, St. James School, to Rene + Saumya, to International Football Exchange, to Germany Embassy Kampala.

To all the media houses that gave it the necessary hype – The New Vision, NBS TV, Star TV, FUFA FM, Ssuubi FM.

 

Watoto Wasoka

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Football Made In Slums

Football, Breaking Barriers in Africa

Thanks to the International Football Exchange for this nice blog about our work.

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Winston Churchill once referred to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa.It has so much to offer from wildlife to the beautiful sceneries. However, in the midst of all that treasure, stands an organization called Watoto Wasoka.

pic 4Watoto  Wasoka was founded in 2009 by social workers from Uganda and Germany. The organisation was founded in order to help children overcome hardship that they may be facing. In developing countries, football is deemed as a getaway to better life. Poverty, drug abuse, lack of education and unemployment are some of the dangers children and the youth of Uganda are currently trying to overcome.

Since its establishment, the organisation has had a significant impact in the community. It has worked with over 5000 kids, between the ages of 10-17. Furthermore, Watoto Wasoka has enabled over 3oo kids to go to high school through sports scholarships. They even have started a girls team. Watoto…

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Slums Derby 2016 is here…

It’s back, bigger and better – The Watoto Wasoka Slums Derby…. the biggest kids’ soccer fiesta in Uganda.

The popularity of football in Africa is undeniable. It is impossible to travel throughout Africa, especially Uganda and not see make-shift dirt pitches in every village, however small and remote they may be. Football is the universal passion and for Kampala´s slum kids, football has become more than a sport thanks to our organization – WATOTO WASOKA – Football made in Slums!

With events like the upcoming Watoto Wasoka Slums Derby we aim to provide kids, as well as girls, with a platform to expose their talent to school scouts and win scholarships and bursaries.

After the Christmas Camp, attended by more than 1,800 kids, we are now under full steam for the preparation of the next highlight for football lovers and Kampala slum kids: the 2016 edition of the SLUMS DERBY will be on May 22/22nd. This year, we expect the participation of more than 700 kids, who will engage in the fierce battle for the official football crown of Kampala Slums.

The highlight of this Slums Derby will be the first ever girls’ version of the Slums Derby that will run alongside the mainstream boys tournament. After registering a great success with the inaugural girls’ tournament in the Christmas Camp, we are following up with the second girls’ tournament. We are thrilled at the prospects that we envisage from girls’ involvement in football.

HELP US providing slum children with the chance to bring their goals to fruition and donate now!

As we intend to feed roughly 700 people for the fourth time, we need external funding, be it monetary or in required commodities such as football gear or food.  Any support to make this event as special as we envisage it to be would be of great relevance for us and, of course, all the kids involved.

Please follow the link below to support, and share to other friends.

https://www.betterplace.org/en/projects/42029-support-our-fourth-edition-of-the-slums-derby

 

 

 

 

2015/16 Watoto Wasoka Christmas Camp

On Monday 28th December 2015, at about 9am, the sun was out and scorching hard. The sky was clear. All roads led to Kasana – Luwero Town Council and the stop point was the famous Luwero Secondary School.

As teams arrived, they were screened by Mike and Sulaiman for eligibility of players into the various age groups – U11s, U13s and U15s. Asiimwe was on ground to show around the teams to their respective halls of residence, while Kizza and Norman were registering every single individual and group that made their way into the gates of Luwero SS.

It was massive on arrivals, big on numbers and ecstasy filled the atmosphere in the camp.

By dusk, dozens of teams had registered for the fourth edition of the Annual Watoto Wasoka Christmas Camp, and by the registrar’s count – 101 boys’ teams and 7 girls’ teams, 156 coaches, from 56 different slums soccer teams and academies had made their way to Luwero for the biggest kids’ soccer camp in Uganda.

The coaches’ general meeting was held that night and was well attended. The coaches were briefed by the Watoto Wasoka team on the camp week program and picked the draws for the games that were to ensue the next morning.

As an organisation, we expected a turn up of 1,500 kids, and as much as we received 250 extra participants, we were right on point to take care of every single participant (kids and coaches) that came to the camp – to accommodate, and to feed them for six days, and to give them the opportunity to play the game they love most at the cheapest costs possible – free for everyone!!

The next morning – Tuesday 29th December 2015, started on a high note as team leaders made their way to the kitchen for breakfast. The games proceeded in accordance to fixtures. Even though the times on the fixture unrhymed with the actual game times, every team had the opportunity to play, every child kicked a football, and every game was played.

For the next couple of days, it was preliminaries that dominated the fixtures, with every team playing three to four games between 29th and 31st December 2015. By the end of the last day of the year, only 16 out of the 33 U-11s teams made it to the knock out stages, 16 from the 36 U-13s teams and 16 from the 32 U-15s teams made it to the last 16 knock out stages of the competition. As 53 teams didn’t make it beyond preliminaries, they became spectators and fans, and stayed in camp engaging in casual games and friendly matches in the afternoons.

The last 16’s and quarter finals were played on the 1st of January 2016, and were later followed by the semi – finals on 2nd January 2016.

On the 2nd January, the girls’ tournament kicked off in high gear. It was the first ever Watoto Wasoka girls’ tournament and was graced by the reigning FUFA Female Player of the Year – Sandra Nabweteme who actually climaxed as the tournament top scorer! Although it didn’t equal the boys’ in zeal and passion, it was interesting to see how much fun the girls had on the pitch. They scored and celebrated, and wowed the crowd with their skill, passion and attitude. To the crowd, it was just dozens of girls coming together to play soccer, but for Watoto Wasoka it was more than just 7 girls’ teams, it was dozens of girls coming together, united by football, kicking out segregations and discriminations, it was a gang of over-zealous females kicking out the social and gender boundaries and harnessing their potential. It was just the beginning of the many forthcoming gender inclusive programs the organisation hopes to roll out in the next phases of its activities.

Watoto Wasoka also worked with Viva con Agua to implement WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) football drill with a dozen of boys. The feedback from the boys that took part was as much enriching as it was refreshing for us all.

The evening climaxed with the long awaited game between team coaches playing against the Watoto Wasoka Staff and Volunteers. Like it was the previous years, the kids turned coaches and it was exciting to see how commanding they became when they assumed authority as coaches during the game – selecting the teams, shouting out tactical messages and making substitutions. Although the game ended in a goal-less draw, it was amazing how united the coaches’ team played amidst its diversities, it highlighted the fun, and heightened joy that soccer can accrue when it unites masses.

On the 3rd January 2016, it was not only the final day but the climax, and the sadly the last day of such an amazing week we had had in Luwero. Like in the previous days, breakfast was served early morning to enable teams to pack and prepare for the finals in time.

In the first final, Proway beat Rapha Junior Academy in a hard fought U11s finale that saw the two sides being separated by penalty shoot outs. In the U13s category, Sparta 09 lost to Super Heroes 1 – 0.

In the afternoon, Masajja needed a Sandra Nabweteme last minute goal to overcome SHE-PRIDISCO in the girls’ category. The U15s pitted Sparta 09 against MYDEL Cubs, and it was not until the penalty shoot outs that Sparta 09 claimed the glory.

The closing ceremony was as brief as it was rewarding. All the 108 teams that participated took home footballs and a certificate of participation, all outstanding players were rewarded and all runners up were decorated with silver medals and trophies.

The winners walked away with gold medals and winners trophies.

 

Up until now, we cannot put into words the fun we had, the joys we had. It was simply beyond any descriptions. We ran out of fingers counting the number of new friends made. We lost our voices cheering along the goals, the skills, and celebrating the beautiful game. We screamed for joy until our voices could no longer support our emotions.

The heat was such scorching that we are all compounded by headaches and fevers, but we are still smiling nonetheless, because we enjoyed play, and we lived the game we love the most.

1,750 slums kids had the opportunity of a fun-filled week to escape drug, and delinquencies, and instead celebrated goals.

To Alive and Kicking who donated 20 give-away and match balls, and to all the individual and corporate sponsors, donors and friends who gave a hand – material, financial and moral support, we are indebted to you and we cannot thank you enough.

Thank you. Danke shon. Webale nyoo. Asanti sana. Merci beaucoup.

Check out the photos here…

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.599527666753721.1073741835.587404467966041&type=3

Slum Derby 2015

Super Heroes crowned Slum Derby 2015 Champions

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It was a colorful evening as Super Heroes United from Mulago beat MSCADA from Kisenyi to lift the Slums Derby for the second time in a row. In a closely contested finale, Super Heroes relied on their goal machine Yiga Vicent for the solitary goal that made the whole difference at the KCCA Primary school – Busega.

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This was the third edition of the Watoto Wasoka Slum Derby. Super Heroes also claimed the glory last May when the tournament was hosted at their home ground in Mulago.
The tournament brought together 420 kids from all round Kampala, in 38 slums and street kids soccer teams. The tournament which lasted for two days had all the preliminaries being played on Saturday 23rd May 2015 while the knock out stages from the round of 16s to the finals were played on Sunday 24th May 2015.

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The kids were also sensitized about WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) in a program of activities that tournament organizers Watoto Wasoka partnered with Viva con Agua Kampala.

All the 38 participating teams received footballs and certificates of participation, while the outstanding players were also1655824_1011189905587493_80935385246912048_o (1) rewarded with Yiga Vicent (Super Heroes) scooping the top scorers boot with 12 goals from 8games, Amanya Rogers (Super Heroes) taking the best defender’s boot, with MSCADA’s Bweyale taking home the best goalkeeper’s gloves.
Mutyaba Travis (ABCD Divine) was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

11313096_1011188042254346_331479022544621364_oBefore the finale between Super Heroes and MSCADA, there was a curtain raiser match between Black Arrows and SHE PRIDISCO that Black Arrows won in penalties 4-3.

                          

For all the smiles and fun we had, for all the friends we made, for all the great time we had, we thank everyone who helped us to put this together, our esteemed donors and sponsors, and volunteers.

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#ThankYou #DankeSchön #MwebaleNyo #AsantiSana

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