There was a parcel of land, once deemed a dark and evil place. It was overgrown with jungle vines and trees, allowing addicts to hide their drug and alcohol abuse, and thugs to conceal their criminal activity.
But two enterprising San Diego high school students had an idea. Devon Roeper
and James Lock decided to try to transform this village located in the outskirts of Mukono, a short distance from the Ugandan capital of Kampala, but 10,000 miles and a world away from their comfortable, upper-middle class lives.
They decided to do it by building a basketball court.
Think "Field of Dreams" — out of the corn stalks a baseball diamond was built, and they came. Out of jungle vines a basketball court was built, and they came.
By the summer of 2011 the site had been cleared and replaced by the first and only public basketball court in the region. While many residents still live meager lives there, residing in one-room houses with dirt floors and no running water, and kids wear tattered clothes and often don't have enough to eat, the court represents change.
The court has since become a gathering spot for the community, with men and women lining the perimeter of the court, watching hours of hoops. It is their YMCA, their town square. And it's become the catalyst for change in many lives. Between the various teams practicing and pick-up games, hundreds of kids — a lot from a nearby orphanage and school — fill the court on a daily basis.
"It amazed me how a basketball court could bring people together," said Roeper.
Roeper, who attends Bishop's (La Jolla, Calif.)
, and fellow senior Lock, who goes to Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach, Calif.)
, were instrumental in raising funds and organizing the construction project in conjunction with the Children's Heritage Foundation, a Solana Beach-based nonprofit that helps disadvantaged children around the world.
Lock described the space before the court replaced it. "You couldn't walk through this area after 6 p.m. because kids would come and drink and do drugs," he said. "However, since the court has been built, it has become a place of hope for young people in the area. Kids are excited that they can use basketball to change their lives and do some good for their community."
Dean Roeper accompanied his daughter on both trips. He said the transformation to the entire community was powerful.
"The identity that these people have now associated with the basketball court brings some respect to the community, where previously the community was reviled for having a dark past, a lot of thuggery. This has kind of given them a rallying point."Click 'Next' to read more.