Changemaker Stories: Emmanuel Bale John Bazira
The changemaker series are a set of interviews that look to move the spotlight from the usual “project impact and outcomes” of our regular work. This is an opportunity to illustrate the humans behind the projects – those who choose to go above and beyond. We hope it will inspire others to do the same and serve as testimony that however big or small your dream, it is possible to bring positive social change to your community. These are the everyday heroes in the Dream Building Fund Programme.
Emmanuel Bale is the founder of Slum Ping Pong, a non-profit organisation that aims to use table tennis as a tool to offer, children living in slums of Kampala, Uganda, access to education and a way to break the cycle of poverty. By offering free regular table tennis sessions, school support, role models through slum coaches and advice where possible, this former slum child himself, now Founder of Slum Ping Pong, ITTF Level 1 certified coach and Dream Building Fund project leader shares his dream with us.
A child of the Nsambya Slum
“My name is Emmanuel Bale John Bazira, I’m from Kampala Uganda, Nsambya slum. I grew up with my grandmother and have one brother. I lost my mother before I even understood what´s happening in the world, my father neglected us and was not in the picture but we had our grandmother who raised us and was everything to us.”
How it all started
“In 2007 a friend told me to head to a hall because my brother and friends had found someone to teach them a sport called table tennis. It was my first-time hearing of the words and sport but I was interested, it was something new, something to do and learn so I ran. On the first day, he just handed me a racquet and taught me how to hold and bounce the ball and the rest is history.”
How Table Tennis changed his life
Emmanuel continued to attend free training sessions at the community centre, not knowing this was his passport to education.
“From the moment I started, throughout my primary school years, I played table tennis and I became the best in the youth centre. So, I was granted free education at cobreros primary school. Education was a big change for me because I got to know how to read and how to write so I can really communicate, I got to learn what I can offer. Education is a need because, illiteracy is so high in the areas where we are from.”
Emmanuel went on to develop as a table tennis coach, he gradually felt he was better suited to coaching and as he started coaching, he started seeing his team win and he decided to stick to it. After a while he realized, he wanted to coach but at home, the same place he grew up in and give back, to make sure other children with his background had access to education and the opportunities he got.
“In 2017, I realised I wanted to do the same for the kids where I grew up, where I come from, so I created slum ping pong. I shared my dream with my table tennis friends, because I saw and know the need of so many children who were just like me. I really knew I can’t do it alone. And when I knew, like my brother he also got free education because of table tennis, so when I told him what I had as a dream he automatically liked it.
It started in a place where I´m from. Now it is a bigger part because it covers kamwani where I was not born but it’s a close by slum, (Police Children School) Katwe and Kabalagala, so it´s covering a huge part. The dream is to bring the change through table tennis, for the people who are just like us, slum children, who share the same background and life challenges and everything"
“The smile on the faces on these children and the parents, from what we have done with my team. It pushes me more. Even the teamwork and the love from the team. Wow, we are on the right track, it burns a fire you know. The Dream Building Fund, it has been a great motivator. We first for support from Sabine Winter, a player and she is great support but thanks to that we heard about the Dream Building Fund and applied and now we have respect and recognition, it is very motivating. It has made so much happen in a short time. It is also huge for the team they realize that we are doing huge with huge organisation, so it brings about trust also. We want to help but now we feel we are on the right track."
Positive impact he has seen:
“So many children have been changed, even the coaches I mean even us, spp has changes us also. It has given us a purpose. We live with a purpose and some coaches were idle and doing nothing in the community and now they get occupied and that is so huge, and they get something small that is so huge.
Coach Ola for example, was doing nothing and losing his way doing hard alcohol even though he had played table tennis with me as a child, so I knew him. He had no job, just drinking so now he is coaching, and two of his children are part of slum ping pong. He is seen in a different way in the community than before.
Yeah, it is a crazy huge proud feeling you know. To be honest, the children, the parents, they use to seem and know me as a little boy who is just there in the slum, just playing table tennis, now they see me as something different, like someone who has done so much in the community and can help their children have a better life.”
Advice from Emmanuel
As everything Emmanuel shares with us, it is straight to the point, his advice is two-fold:
“You have to have the right people to work with, they have to believe in your dream, share the dream and you trust them, and they trust you.
And yeah, loving your dream and not letting go of your dream. Because dreams come true, you know. I can tell you from my life, dreams come true. But you have to work hard for it and you must believe. Table tennis can change lives, because it changed my life, it gave me hope, now I´m trying to do this for other kids in the slums.”
Learn more about the project in Kampala, Uganda: HERE