As a young grassroots organization, much of Boston GLOW's success has been propelled by friends, family and the support of other nonprofits, particularly those that are local or are led by women in our network. One of our chief objectives for this blog is to showcase the missions of those fabulous females in our lives who are involved with or have founded nonprofits of their own.
Today, I'm pleased to highlight the amazing work of a very dear old friend, Kate Kelley, whom I've known since my freshman year of high school. When we met, Kate and I were perhaps unlikely companions - I was a bookworm with a mouthful of braces whose athletic ability was limited to bike-riding and tree-climbing and Kate was a tall, confident and talented star of the basketball team. Despite the odds, Kate and I gravitated towards each other and developed an enduring friendship. Among others, one of Kate's passions has always remained basketball - she served as co-captain of the DII nationally-ranked women's basketball team at Bentley University team and played professionally in Europe after graduation.
In 2009, Kate took a hiatus from her career in sports marketing to live in Kigali, Rwanda for 3 months to work as a consultant with the As We
Forgive Rwandan Initiative. Immediately upon arrival, she was struck by the lack of organized sports offered for young people in the community. A firm believer that sports can teach youth confidence, leadership skills, the value of teamwork and can provide necessary structure, she was inspired to share her love of the game with the young people she met in Rwanda.
In 2010, Kate founded the Ubumwe (ah-boom-wey) Basketball Program, a project of the As We Forgive - Rwanda Initiative (AWFRI) which uses sport as a means to enhance unity and reconciliation among Rwanda's youth while simultaneously supporting Rwandan basketball development. Their mission is to "rejuvenate the lives of marginalized youth, build self-esteem, promote healthy lifestyles, and inspire a joyful spirit among the children who continue to bear the burden of their country’s traumatic and deeply wounded past."
Kate has worked tirelessly to develop a leadership team and strong curriculum for the program, which has gained recognition from the US Women's National Basketball Association and sponsorship from Athletes in Action, the Rwanda Basketball Federation and Bentley University Women's Basketball. In their first year, Ubumwe accomplished tremendous things:
- 330 Rwandan youths between the ages of 5-22 years old were trained with the fundamentals of basketball while learning the principles of reconciliation and how play with and respect their peers.
- 40 community volunteers were equipped with the skills necessary to coach youth basketball in their communities
- One volunteer run year-round league was established by local coaches for the participants
In their second full year, the 2011 Ubumwe program consists of coaching clinics, designed to train local leaders the necessary skills to teach community youth the principles of reconciliation as well as coach basketball and a 4 week camp for 360 children between the ages of 7-18 years old - 50% students, 50% street children. To culminate both programs, Ubumwe hosts a community day open to the public of Kigali to highlight the achievements of the coaches and children.
Kate is currently in Rwanda to help facilitate this year's program and continue expanding their team of coaches and local support and participation. We are proud to call Kate a friend of GLOW and encourage you to learn more about her work to improve the lives of Rwandan youth. We can't wait to see what Ubumwe does next! To learn more, check out their Facebook page or visit their website.