April is Autism Awareness month and embraceKulture once again turned to the pitch to raise awareness for Autism with the first ever Inclusive Rugby Tournament in Uganda.
The World Bank estimates only 1% of the population in Uganda is aware of Autism. In fact, local languages do not have a word to describe Autism. Instead words like "cursed" or "demon possessed" are often used. Afraid of what they do not know and understand, these children are often hidden.
Rugby is not just a huge sport in Uganda, it has been used throughout African history as a way to break down barriers. Perhaps you remember the movie Invictus, staring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, recounting the incredible rugby's role in uniting a nation post apartheid?
Last year, embraceKulture and the Entebbe Mongers and Sharks worked together to hold the first Autism Awareness event in Uganda. A crowd of 200 came together to watch the matches and critical educational information was shared about Autism. Members of the community left not only educated but activated. Ten hidden children were identified as a direct result of this event.
This year we wanted to make the event bigger and better! With an effort largely driven by Rugby National Player Wandicho John, we organized the first ever Inclusive Rugby Tournament - 12 teams, 144 players, all uniting for one cause, acceptance.
The event included testimonies from parents of children with Autism, information about Autism, and of course, a showcase of ability as players from all walks of life had their chance on the pitch.
"Inclusive rugby spreads awareness so I hoped people would get to understand these children and how to deal with them which I think is lacking in our society," said John. "I also hoped the kids would gain self esteem but most importantly have so much fun."