An invaluable experience at Turnstone for Ugandan educatorBy Brian Canever, Center for Sport, Peace, & Society August 12, 2016
Despite the 7,600 miles that separate the Ugandan capital of Kampala from northeast Indiana, a lifelong connection was recently formed between one Ugandan educator and one American CEO working to empower and inspire people with disabilities.
“For those of us who work in the disability sector—not only in sport, but in all areas—our work is inherently very mission-driven,” said Mike Mushett, CEO of Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities in Fort Wayne. “And that is why there is this immediate bond we form with each other. These people are the salt of the earth; so compassionate and caring. Agwang embodies those characteristics perfectly.”
As part of the GSMP: Sport for Community program, Mike mentored Agwang Angella Christine, a lecturer in disability studies at Kyambogo University, over the course of two weeks in June. Agwang arrived to Turnstone with the mission of developing a plan to promote inclusive sports in northern Uganda through awareness campaigns, training for coaches and officials, and new sports leagues. Agwang spent the week prior to her time with Mike working with Margaret Stran, Ph.D., associate director of adapted athletics at the University of Alabama.
Founded in 1943, Turnstone runs rehabilitation, fitness, adult learning, and inclusive childcare programs that are available year-round to the public. In 2015, the organization raised $15 million from its surrounding community to open a state-of-the-art sports facility, which served more than 2,200 people in eight recreational and competitive sports, including power soccer, wheelchair basketball, and sled hockey. Also a Gold Level Paralympic Sports Club, Turnstone recently became home of the USA Men’s Paralympic Goalball Team. Mike joined the organization a year removed from a seven-year tenure as the director of Paralympic Sport Outreach and Development for the U.S. Olympic Committee, where he created and directed Paralympic sports programs in 200 communities across the United States.
After only a few days together, Mike was impressed by Agwang’s great ambition for growing adapted sports in Uganda despite already managing a full catalogue of courses at Kyambogo, where she is the point person for all disability sport programs and teaches more than 700 students yearly. But, deeply moved by the isolation of the disabled in her community, it is natural for Agwang to push forward. In fact, she has not looked back since accepting a position to teach in the Department of Community and Disability Studies in 2009 and now also serves as a goalball coach and member of the Uganda Blind Sports Association.
“When I came to Kyambogo University as a student, I took one course in disability studies and that’s where everything changed for me,” Agwang said. “I witnessed the plight of people with disabilities in my community, who are left out due to social discrimination. No one is concerned—especially when it comes to sports and recreational activities. But I believe it’s everybody’s right to get involved in sports activities. Because sports play a very important role in the lives of any person, regardless of their ability or background.”
Utilizing their many years of experience in adapted sports and community programs, Mike and his team at Turnstone assisted Agwang with creating a strategy for success, including components of public relations, outreach, funding development, and sustainable programming development. With these tools in hand, Agwang is ready to begin work on creating the brighter future she envisioned since she was a university student.
“I dream of a Uganda where everybody embraces the right of persons with disabilities to participate in any recreational and sports activities, just like any other member of the community,” Agwang said. “I want to see a Uganda where facilities and equipment are user-friendly for persons with disabilities. And where the attitudes are positive and inclusive of all people; where there is no more discrimination. Because sport can make my country and the world a better place.”
View more photos and quotes from the Center’s visit to Turnstone to see Agwang and Mike on Facebook (link)