We Are Ray United
Ray United harnesses the power of sports and the arts to promote education, health, and global citizenship among youth.
Video overview of our 2017 camp in Oyam, Uganda created by Evan Pye, a Ray United volunteer.
Innocent is the headmaster of Dokolo Progressive Secondary School, a school that partners with Ray United camps and clubs.
Abel is a medical student at Makerere University and member of the Ray United public health outreach team.
Video of one of our 2019 campers talking about her goals and how she learned to make a 'tippy tap' hand washing station at camp.
Mary is a student at the University of Southern California and a 2019 volunteer.
Farant is teacher engaged in Ray United camp programming.
Kawa is the head coach at Football for Good, the soccer academy that partners with Ray United to provide professional soccer training during Ray United Camps.
Daniel is a 2-time Ray United Camp participant. In 2018 he was selected by Football for Good to try out for their youth academy. He was invited back and plans to enter the Academy full time in January 2020. His invitation was cause for massive celebration throughout his community and represents what is possible when youth have the opportunity to showcase their talent.
My first TEDx talk when I has just turned 11 years old.
My most recent TEDx talk outlining what I have learned after 5 years working on community-based youth programs.
Picture of Cecil, a Makerere University student and 2018-2019 camp volunteer, leading campers between workshops. I love this photo because it captures the joy and energy that permeates throughout all of our programming.
Ray United team members work closely together in developing and delivering our engaging curriculum. I like this photo because it again illustrates the friendship and energy that defines our programs.
Teen girls are given reusable sanitary pad making kits and receive instructions to make them as part of Ray United camp to help keep them in school.
I have been present and helped lead at all 5 Ray United camps (as well as all vision trips and additional planning trips as well). Camp is always the best week of my year.
Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Eligibility: Date of Birth
March 13, 2003
Help us stay in touch!
941 Wiladonda Drive
CA: La Canada (91011)
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
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...”
Wow - this was difficult! I never realized how incapable I was of speaking fluently for an entire 60 seconds! As I reference, this took a number of takes and am not thrilled with the final project - but hopefully I will have many more opportunities to further improve my elevator pitch in the future!
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?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
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?
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.