Building Has Begun!

We are so excited to announce that ground has been broken for the new Chess Academy and Mentoring Center in Kampala.  Along with the Chess Academy, construction has also begun on two children’s homes, the welcome center and the basketball court.  This is a huge step towards being able to expand this ministry and have a safer place for children to come and learn.  We appreciate the continued prayers and support and will continue to keep you updated!

Please visit our official Kampala Ministry page for more information.

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Home Sweet Home

Robert and Phiona are home and have enjoyed being back into their normal routine over the past week and half.  They have each been able to enjoy time with family before Robert getting back to work and Phiona returning to school and friends. We would like to thank everyone for all of your prayers and support over the past month and a half as Robert and Phiona traveled all over the United States.  They were able to share their story and touch so many lives and for a trip so long to have no one become sick or have any injury is a true blessing.  Thank you!

We hope you will continue to check back and follow for updates on Phiona, the chess academy and stories of other children involved in the program.


Uganda is Calling….

Today is the day, Robert and Phiona have been here for five weeks and are more than ready to go home to see family and Job has been here 10 months so I think we can all imagine how badly he misses his family.  This trip has been incredible, the lives that they have all touched and the people that they have been able to share their story with who would normally never have heard it is all God’s work.

Robert and Phiona have spoken across the US and have met so many new friends and people.  We want to especially thank The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who were the initial decision to bring them back to the US for their third time and paid for their airfare to and from Uganda.  The friends they have made we all hope will continue to stay in touch and work together and maybe even get them over to Uganda one day!

It is crazy to think back that April 18 marked the beginning of this journey in Portland, OR followed by Seattle, Santa Barbara, Greenwich, Bronxville, NYC, Memphis, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Charlotte, Cary/Apex and Washington, DC.  WOW, I am tired just trying to remember all of those places, how those two trooped across the US sometimes only staying in places one night at a time.

I think it is safe to say everyone is worn out and we all need to get some sleep so please check back tomorrow for special notes and news on Robert, Phiona and Job’s safe travels.

Thank you to everyone who has helped support this journey however that may have looked to you.  We hope you will continue to follow the for chess updates and future stories of the many other great stories that are growing out of this program!

As it comes to an end…

Today was our final full day together before Robert, Phiona and Job fly home to Uganda! It has been such an amazing five weeks and the lives that they have touched cannot be counted.  Their story inspires and touches every person they meet, it may not all be in the same way and those people may choose to never share that with anyone, but you can see it. You can see it in the faces as they share and the tears that people are brought to from the humble spirit these two have.  Robert and Phiona are amazing models for us all on the awesomeness of God and remembering that all good things come from Him and we are to take those good things and use them to glorify His name, not ours.  That is something that Robert and Phiona cannot hide, they are true servants of Christ.

Today was started with yet another beautiful day loaded with relaxation.  We were all able to get caught up on emails, rest, packing, and enjoy the final time with the DeWeese family and each other.  Then it was off to Community Academy Public Charter School in downtown DC.  This school has had a chess program that was started by a math teacher 2 years prior, fun thing is it is similar in some ways, the teacher did it without knowing really everything about chess either, similar to Robert.  They had a phenomenal group of kids involved, many of which girls.  One girl in particular had been a leader and was the only girl in the chess club for a long time before other girls joined.  She acted as a leader, teacher and role model for girls and boys, she shared a little bit about what chess means to her and a special thank you to Phiona for coming and sharing.  This school was full of smiling gracious people, the kids were great and many parents even came out to watch and support.  The school hosted an assembly that allowed Rodney, Robert and Phiona to all speak before heading down for a chess exhibition.  During the exhibition Robert and Phiona were both able to play chess with some of the children before heading to a small reception they were hosting.  Mr. Amos, the founder of the school, which is seventeen years old was so excited and so gracious to even offer a donation from the school for the Chess Academy.

Following the school we took a short walk to a small cafe to catch our breath and grab a quick snack and drink before heading to a reception hosted by Marc Rotenberg with the US Chess Center.  He and his wife Anna were incredibly gracious hosts along with their daughter.  They had several others who were involved with chess, the school Anna teaches at and some coworkers of Marc.  It was a great time of fellowship with a lot of new friends that allowed Robert and Phiona to share their story with a few more people.  Many had not really understood the magnitude of this story so it was amazing to watch how everyone responded.  Marc and Anna were incredible hosts and we hope that Robert and Phiona will be able to keep in touch with many people they met that night along with the US Chess Center.

We want to thank Mr. Amos and all the hard work that his staff did to arrange for Robert and Phiona to come and share, it was truly incredible.  Also, Robert McLellan who arranged all today along with several other meetings and schools the past 5 weeks, we could not have done many of this with out you Robert.  Thank you to everyone.

Tomorrow will be a slow day, going around getting any last minute items before they fly out at 6:00pm.

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One can make a difference

It’s safe to say a lot of people agree with the term, “manic monday” and in most cases I think we all would too, but this Monday.  This morning, everyone woke up at their leisure, with no alarm clock!  Now, that may not seem too exciting, but for this bunch, no alarm clock is something to treasure!  So after we all moseyed our way to the kitchen we enjoyed breakfast on the back porch and a nice time of fellowship with Randi and Steve.

We were headed to downtown DC for a meeting with at two but decided to make a few stops to find two more bags for Robert, Phiona and Job to pack all their freebies and gifts for everyone back home in Uganda!  Then it was off to DC traffic and navigate to the meeting.  We found two friends along the way who met us there, Kathleen Riehl and Robert McLellan who came to help us in the meeting.  Immediately upon walking into the building, we felt welcome and at ease.  The gentleman who greeted us at the door came fully supplied with candy, a smile and great directions to the office!  Next we met Kate Coleman, who has been coordinating this meeting and again, you feel a little calmer.  Everyone there came in with a smile, a handshake, a thank you, it was a beautiful office with beautiful people.  Rodney, Robert and Phiona shared about Sports Outreach and their personal stories before opening the floor for a few questions and answers.  Everyone was so inspired again but this amazing story and after everyone had gone and we were behind with the main leaders of the organization, they shared an email a staff member had just sent, he has worked at ONE for 5 years and he said this was the best “brown bag” in five years.  We are very excited to see what will come from this new partnership and how we can both work together to share not only Robert and Phiona’s story but also other women’s story and how we can all continue to empower young girls and women.

Thank you to the entire ONE staff for allowing us the opportunity to come and not only share out story but to share theirs as well with us.

Our next stop was back at Vienna Presbyterian where we  had dinner with the Goodwich family who brought sandwiches and chips and their two boys who love chess!  It was casual and fun.  The boys had the opportunity to play with Phiona before heading home.  Shortly after they left the missions committee came in to have a brief meeting with us and to hear some updates of the programs with Sports Outreach. After that we did a few quick shopping trips to get the final things needed before they travel home on Wednesday and then we all had a relaxing even with the DeWeese family and early to bed!

Tomorrow brings a school visit and a small reception in the evening.

Vienna knows the right pace…

We are so blessed to have met the Deweese family and that they have opened their home to us, they seem to know just the right pace for our final few days of the trip.  This morning we woke up to a wonderful breakfast before heading to Vienna Presbyterian for worship.  They were having their Youth Sunday and asked Phiona to offer the prayer at all three services.  Sue Hamblen the head of missions at Vienna helped guide us around and had arranged for Robert, Phiona and Tim to sign books in between services; in addition they were given the opportunity to share at a “boxed lunch” after the 11 o’clock service.  The church was very welcoming and seemed to really enjoy hearing their story and know that it is a story that their church supports and has helped in different ways; Very encouraging time.  Added bonus was that Tim Crothers was there with his friend Candace, the same teacher who helped start the chess club at Glendale Elementary in Chapel Hill.  This gave Tim an opportunity to share the story from his perspective of the past, the present and how it has affected him personally.

After church, we were able to all go take a nap, spend some quality time with the Deweese family and kick our feet up before going to dinner at Stacey and Sue Hamblen’s home.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship with new friends, sharing stories and getting to know one another better.  Stacey and Sue were so incredibly welcoming to open their home for a relaxing, casual evening.  It has been great to slow things down and really enjoy the final days with one another as we all prepare to travel home on Wednesday.

Final Leg of the Journey

**First, let me start with an apology, we have had a few issues with the website over the past few days so we are very sorry the updates have not been posting.  But, we hope you will get all caught up with “Keepin the Tires Rolling” and “Old Friends, New Friends” to hear more about our time Charlotte, NC.**

We made it to Vienna, VA today for the final leg of the this five week journey in the US.  It has been a long few weeks but Robert and Phiona have become quite the public speakers!  We added one very special person to our crew, Job who is Aloysius’ son from Uganda.  Job has just finished his freshman year in a school in West Virginia where he was staying with The Fox family.

The morning started with a great farewell breakfast at the Original Pancake house with the Wise family and also the Groovers joined us.  It was great to have a few extra minutes to say goodbye to everyone.  We then jumped in the car for our first stop in Richmond, VA!  This was a great experience, where our good friend Tom Barilla and his wife Elizabeth arranged for us to meet at Outdoor World, and that was an experience.  Tom enjoyed showing them around the store and leading them to the shooting range!  Robert jumped right in, but Phiona chose to stay in the background and oversee, make sure Robert didn’t hurt anyone.  It was a great break in the 7 hour drive and in addition to having The Barilla family, Ben Behrendt, and Katherine Nott and her two girls joined us as well.  So thank you to all of you for the wonderful break and an unforgettable experience at Outdoor World in Richmond!

Again, it was time to get back in the car and finish the two hour drive.  We all hopped in and got it done, we met Tim Crothers at his hotel for some snacks and nice visit before finishing at our host family’s home.  The DeWeese family has been so gracious to open their home to us and we look forward to getting to know them better over the next few days.

Tomorrow is Youth Sunday at Vienna Presbyterian, a church that has supported Sports Outreach for a number of years and they have invited Phiona to offer the prayer in the service.  Following the service there will a box lunch and time for Robert and Phiona to share their story.  We are looking forward to another wonderful day and are starting to countdown the days until we will sadly send Robert, Phiona and Job home to Uganda!

Old Friends, New Friends

This morning came slowly and with lots of sunshine!  It was a beautiful day in Charlotte and with everyone well rested we were up and ready to roll out for the day.  First on the agenda was to get Robert a new “office” as he calls his laptop; so after some relaxing breakfast and time with Tammy Wise we headed off to Best Buy and were able to find a great setup along with a few other nick-knacks he needed for the Chess Academy.

With new purchases in tow, we headed to Johnson and Wales where we found Dr. Pat MacEnulty, an English professor at the university.  She showed us around the beautiful campus right in the middle of downtown before leading us into the lecture hall where they would be sharing.  It was a great turn out of students and teachers with majority having already read the book!  It made for a wonderful discussion full of new questions and one specific student who went out of her way to say what an impressive young woman Phiona is and encourage her to continue to share her story with the world, because it is amazing and she is so inspirational.  Following the presentation a couple students had brought with them their copy of The Queen of Katwe so that it could be autographed.  Dr. MacEnulty then gave us a quick tour of the culinary labs and we were even lucky enough to find one finishing up, so they shared some fresh made pizza with the crew! Johnson and Wales was incredibly welcoming and we thank Dr. MacEnulty for being so kind of easy to schedule with.

We then all decided it was time to relax before the fundraising dinner at 6:00, so back to the Wise’s home where Tammy had arranged a Chipotle spread of rice, beans, chicken and chips, it was hit!

The fundraising event was hosted at the beautiful home of the Bob and Jo Johnson here in Charlotte.  Bob is an excellent BBQ chef so he graced us with that treat for dinner along with a spread of southern delicacies! Eric and Monica Wilson of Steele Creek Church were the real masterminds behind the night and they ran it perfectly.  They shared from their hearts about their experiences with Sports Outreach before having Robert, Phiona and Tim Crothers come to share for a few minutes about their history and their future.  Eric opened up specifically about his first introduction with Sports Outreach and how their family has gotten involved and how it has changed their lives.  Rodney closed the night with casting the vision for the Kampala Ministry Center and the hopes of what is to come.  The night was so relaxing and the best part was it was a time of fellowship.  Almost the entire staff from SOI Headquarters came down along with the board members from Lynchburg.  It was just a joyous night of God’s amazing work blessings and work!

Tomorrow we will head to Richmond for a brief visit with close friends from Third Presbyterian before continuing on to Vienna, VA.

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