Langley-inspired Pearl of Africa campaign continues to shine

On July 26, Pearl of Africa Series coordinator Ruth Hoffman returned to Langley, the place where the international goodwill baseball program took root back in 2011.

During the 2014 Provincial Little League Championship, Hoffman had a tent set up at Walnut Grove Park’s George Zarrelli Majors Diamond to promote Pearl of Africa 2.

Joining her was Rosemary Jopaowitt and Esther Nakabugo, a pair of Uganadan players who are training to be coaches.

The B.C. championship for 11/12 Majors teams wrapped up Monday with the final pitting White Rock against South Vancouver.

Baseball brought Hoffman to Africa to help children in Uganda through the power of sport.

In 2012 the Canadian Little League champions from Langley joined with Right To Play for the Pearl of Africa Series in support of the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association.

They went to Uganda to play the Ugandan champions – in the game that should have been played at the Little League World Series in the U.S.

The Ugandan team had won the right to compete at the 2011 World Series.

This would have been the first time an African team had earned the right to participate – and it would have been a trip of a lifetime for those 11- and 12 year-olds. Their first game would have been against the Canadian team from Langley.

But these dreams were dashed when the U.S. State Department was forced to deny travel visas due to documentation issues. Their story galvanized supporters from around the world and the Pearl of Africa Series was born.

A total of $155,000 was raised and for three projects: education, fields and player transportation. Plus, more than 1,000 kilograms of equipment was collected from across Canada.

Pearl of Africa Series 2 has a modest fundraising goal of $35,000.

Funds raised will:

• create a professional coaching program;

• develop expertise in videography and field construction;

• replenish the player transportation fund for 2014 and 2015;

• send donated equipment to Uganda; and

• create opportunities for children in Canada to learn the joy of giving.

One of the UBASA’s greatest needs is to improve their coaching capacity. Jopaowitt and Nakabugo are in Canada for four months of training and two baseball coaches from Play Global and Little League Canada will run clinics in Uganda and provide remote mentoring for two years.

Videographer training

Scouting videos were made for the first time in 2012. They documented the success of UBASA and proved to be an excellent training tool. One expert will go to Uganda to shoot the next round of videos and train coaches. These videos will eventually open doors to scholarships and professional contracts.

Field development

There are several fields in Uganda under development, and UBASA needs expert advice to ensure proper construction and maintenance. One expert will go to Uganda to assess conditions, provide on-site training and produce documentation to guide donors and UBASA.

Player transportation support

The first Pearl of Africa series raised funds for transportation, enabling UBASA to schedule regular games for 2012 and 2013. Previously, children came out for practice, but couldn’t afford bus fare to travel to play other teams. The opportunity to play competitively has made a world of difference: the skill level has improved, more players are joining, and the media is taking notice.

Pearl of Africa 2 will replenish the transportation fund.

Donated equipment

Communities throughout the Lower Mainland will collect over 1,000 kilograms of equipment for kids in Uganda. To donate, visit www.commonwealthgames.ca, or www.pearlofafricaseries.org.

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