We Are Ray United

Ray United harnesses the power of sports and the arts to promote education, health, and global citizenship among youth.

Photo of Ray United
1 13

Written by

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

March 13, 2003

Help us stay in touch!

(443) 670-7158 941 Wiladonda Drive CA: La Canada (91011)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

www.rayunitedfc.org www.rayunitedfc.org/blog www.facebook.com/rayunitedfc @rayunitedfc (Instagram) @rayunitedfc (Twitter)

Date You Started Your Project Started

March 20, 2014 (date of my first Tedx Talk when I outlined my idea to host community-based soccer camps to provide a platform for health education)

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Youth worldwide are smart, funny, and driven but many lack the education and opportunities needed to capitalize on their talents. For example, of the nearly 20,000 children who begin 1st grade in the Ugandan district of Oyam, less than 200 complete secondary school. Youth in such communities are at heightened risk of contracting infectious diseases, unplanned pregnancy, substance abuse, and poor mental health, exacerbating the cycle of poverty.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our programs deliver impoverished youth essential information needed to stay healthy and remain in school; provide role models to inspire them to stay committed to their education; create optimism about their future through new opportunities; and generate solidarity among peers in their country and around the world. Our specific programs include our annual youth soccer and health camp, school clubs, and youth vision trips. Ray United Camp, which reaches 1,000 youth a year, provides soccer training delivered by professional Ugandan coaches and interactive health workshops led by Ugandan and American university students, as well as healthy meals, clean water, shirts, bags, workbooks, hygiene kits, and soccer uniforms. Camp culminates in a community-wide soccer tournament and medical outreach. Paired school clubs in the US and Uganda sustain Ray United programming throughout the year as they work together to address shared problems. Annual 10-day vision trips, which include visits to partner schools, community service activities, home stays, and safari, expose American high school students to the beauty and diversity of Uganda’s people and wildlife and expand their global citizenship.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

At age 10 I joined my mom on a trip to Uganda where I played in a life-changing soccer game during which the cultural barriers between myself and the local kids fell away. We followed the same rules and shared the goal of getting the ball in the net. However, the field was littered with bricks and ant hills, the kids didn’t wear shoes, and while they were talented, they hadn’t any formal training. After the game the kids asked if I would help them get more opportunities to play soccer. I agreed and back home I launched a campaign to host a soccer camp that would provide professional coaching and health education in the village I visited. I did everything I could to raise the initial funds – posted to social media, put jars in stores, threw parties, visited classes, sold t-shirts, baskets and everything in my garage. Eventually I raised enough to host our first camp in 2015 (I was 12).

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Numerous lives have been changed through involvement with Ray United making it difficult to choose just one. Shall I tell you about 12-year-old camper Daniel who was recruited at camp to join the Football for Good Academy, thus putting him track for a professional soccer career and inspiring his entire community? Or shall I describe our project manager Meddy, who first volunteered as an insecure Ugandan college student and is now leading large projects, presenting at international conferences, and launching his own technology start up? Perhaps Simone, an American volunteer and now UN employee who found her professional calling while talking to girls in Oyam about menstrual health? Or perhaps about those arguably most transformed, teenagers like Arik, Caden, and Francesca who found themselves and discovered their global responsibility during a youth vision trip? Take your pick!

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Joy. While others provide public health programming to Ugandan youth, none are doing so in such an energetic, interactive, and positive atmosphere. Our difference is clear from the moment one arrives at a Ray United event and witnesses the ubiquitous music, movement and smiles. Our volunteers are trained to engage the youth in hands-on educational workshops, dance, chants, and games. As Ghandi said: “Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.”

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In 5 years Ray United has engaged 120+ rural Ugandan schools in its annual camp, reaching over 5,000 youth with soccer training and public health education. Workshops have increased knowledge around reproductive health, sanitation (including the installation of more than 50 handwashing stations), menstrual hygiene (including the distribution of over 1,000 reusable pad making kits), malaria prevention, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and mental health. More than 100 young volunteers have gained experience delivering community-based public health programming, including high school, undergraduate, and graduate students and young professionals from the US and Uganda. Community-based organizations partnered with Ray United have benefited, for example, Global Health Network Uganda was able to secure a grant from the US mission in 2019 for work based on Ray United’s model.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Ray United is ready to expand to additional communities and countries, while deepening our engagement in the communities where we began. In the past few months alone we have been approached about bringing our programming to Armenia, Guatemala, Malawi, Mexico, and Peru. We would like to see the establishment of Ray United country chapters that can facilitate this expansion and empower more youth through health and education programming leveraging sport, arts, and, of course, joy. As a first step, this month we hired a full-time country director to manage programming in Uganda. Now we need to establish new partners, engage new donors, and develop an innovative financing strategy to sustain our growth.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Board Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Sonny Patel, Harvard University Global Health Fellow, sent me the link to the program and encouraged me to apply.

Attachments (1)

RUFC Brochure Summer 2019.pdf

This is a trip-fold handout that shares Ray United's mission and main programs.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael McPhie

Talk about a project with global reach! Keep up the good work, Ray!