James Lock and Devon Roeper, both 16, traveled to Uganda during June of 2010 with the Children’s Heritage Foundation, a Del Mar nonprofit foundation. Initially, they both spent time working at the Victor’s School in Mokono, an orphanage and boarding school which boards about 400 school children in barrack-like quarters and provides K thru 8 education for a total of about 800 children. Although the school and dormitories provide a safe environment for the children, the living conditions were basic at best with 20-30 children to a bedroom and no electricity or indoor plumbing. The only water source was a pump in the middle of the school campus. They also noted that the youth in the community hung around in large groups and had no safe or constructive activities to participate in. James stayed at the Victor’s School and helped build a soccer field. He remembers how excited the kids were to have a place to play soccer. “They wanted to help us during their class breaks. It was so hot and humid, but they never complained, and they started playing on the field before it was complete.”
While James remained in Mokono, Devon traveled to the north of Uganda and worked with a mobile medical team, providing medical treatment to people in the bush near the Congo and Sudan boarders. The team served 600-700 people a day, many of whom had never had access to a physician or medical treatment.
When James and Devon returned to Rancho Santa Fe, they were determined to make a positive difference in the lives of the children in Uganda. They both had a love for basketball and played for their respective high school teams, so they started to investigate the possibility of building a basketball court in Mokono. They began to think of ways to raise the money necessary to build the court. Instead of receiving presents for birthdays and Christmas, James and Devon decided ask for donations for the basketball court. They also each asked friends and family to donate to their efforts. By the spring of 2011, James and Devon had collectively raised over $13,000. With the help of parents and other adults, they coordinated the acquisition of land, the hiring of contractors and the purchase of supplies. Work on the court began in May of 2011. From 9,000 miles away, they watched pictures posted on Facebook that chronicled the completions of the construction of the first public basketball court in the region. Not just content with a basketball court, Devon began looking for donations for basketball jerseys. She approached her high school, Bishop’s, and was elated at a donation of over 150 jerseys and shorts. In June of 2011, James, a student at Santa Fe Christian, returned to Mokono with The Children’s Heritage Foundation. He was able to witness the progress on the court, as well as help with some of its construction.
James and Devon have been told that the court has taken on a life of its own and has become a gathering place; not just of children of the town but for the adults, as well. It is a community source of pride and is providing a healthy, safe, drug-free environment for the town. Currently, boys and girls teams have been organized and have started to play teams from other communities, with the goal of competing in some national tournaments.
James and Devon are not done with their commitment to make a positive change in the lives of the children in Mokono. They both plan to return to Mokono in August of 2012 to hold a basketball clinic for boys and girls in the town. During this year, they plan to get donations for basketball shoes and equipment. They are both interested in having their efforts be bigger than just the building of a basketball court and are hoping to see a legacy of partnership develop between their schools and the kids of Mokono, that outlasts their time at Santa Fe Christian and Bishop’s.
James and Devon want to publicly thank everyone who has contributed to making the basketball court a reality. “We couldn’t have done it alone,” James says.
If you would like to donate money, basketball equipment, athletic shoes, or uniforms for the children of Mokono and the Victor’s School, please contact: Robert Lewison, Children’s Heritage Foundation at robert@ childrensheritagefoundation.org or (619) 787– 8587.