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Passion for Peace

New grad works to bring youth development programs to Uganda

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By Alexiss Turner

Before Jill Flockhart '13 was first recruited to the University of Idaho in 2009, she said she would have had trouble finding the Gem State on a map.

“I knew nothing about Idaho before I arrived,” she said.

Four years later, her international studies degree has given a closer look at the world and her place in it.

Flockhart has spent the last three months in the East African Republic of Uganda working with the Soccer Without Borders (SWB) program. The nonprofit builds and maintains community youth development programs in underserved areas. There are multiple programs across the US, and two international locations in Nicaragua and Uganda.

Flockhart, a native of Canada, came to Idaho following her passion of soccer. In 2011 she was named Idaho Players' Player of the Year and a three-time WAC All-Academic honoree.

“My senior year, I took a great interest in the idea of how the sport could be used for global development and peace,” she said.

As luck would have it, the spring 2013 Borah Symposium covered that exact topic. The UI Borah Symposium is an annual program devoted to understanding the causes of war. SWB founder Ben Gucciardi was a guest speaker at the event, where Flockhart said she found the initiative to apply for a yearlong internship.

Always part of a team, Flockhart said she has learned when to take charge and when to let others lead.

“Here in Uganda, we work with a group of local coaches, and being able to know when the right time to step up and the right time to let others lead is very important,” she said.

She begins teaching an introductory English class of 50 students each morning. After English, the youngest students receive a life-skills class, where Flockhart can decide the subject material. Her choices have included world geography, oceans and a special class on the importance of equality.

After class, it’s on with the cleats and straight to the pitch for about 30 minutes of soccer skill training followed by scrimmages.

“The kids we work with on a daily basis are absolutely amazing,” she said, “They are so loving and definitely look up to you.”

Her course work to understand different cultures and government systems has helped her settle into the job, she said, and every day is a memorable experience.

“Seeing how happy the kids are every day - yet knowing the living conditions they face and even the stories behind them having to flee to Uganda - just makes you really reconsider how you think and live,” she said.

In addition to her work, Flockhart is enjoying life in a new country. One adventurous experience has been a local method  of public transportation - the boda boda or motorcycle taxi.

“It is literally an old motorcycle that you jump on the back of, and it will take you anywhere you want to go,” she said. “They don’t obey any laws of the road. They drive on whatever side of the road is fastest.”

She also has rafted down the Nile River and acquired a taste for fresh Nile Perch.

“At the local fish market you can purchase a fresh fish right off the shoreline.” she said. "You then bring it to another person who will cook it. You sit down at a table, and the fish comes out on a platter with a salad.”

“The fish comes head, tail and everything still intact. Using your hands, you pick the meat right off the bone."

Lear more about Flockhart’s work and recent successes at http://www.soccerwithoutborders.org/uganda/.