Pearl of Africa Series, now in its 3rd campaign, is a development through sports initiative that supports the transformational programs of the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association for boys and girls in Uganda. The pins supplied through PinSource are used as a fundraising effort to raise awareness and funds to send equipment, build coaching capacity, and help with transportation costs so kids can travel to play teams from towns across Uganda.
The effort is lead by Ruth Hoffman who decided to get involved after reading an article in the New York Times about a Little League team from Uganda who’s dreams were dashed when the U.S. State Dept couldn’t issue the visas due to documentation deficiencies.
Their story soon galvanized supporters from around the world, and the Pearl of Africa Series was born. The series brings little league teams from the United States and Canada to Uganda to play with local teams and witness the positive impact baseball is having. Pearl of Africa Series provides hope and inspiration to children across the country. They create opportunities for kids to come together, share their passion for the game and develop skills that will help them to a better future.
To date, Mrs. Hoffman and Right to Play have so far raised $136,000 to help nurture baseball in this East African nation. As a fundraising effort, PinSource supplied pins that Ruth then sells to make money for this wonderful cause.
We caught up with Ruth via email in Uganda to talk to her about the latest happenings in The Pearl of Africa Series and discuss with her a little bit about how the pins she designed with PinSource played in to what she’s doing.
PS: What motivated you to get involved with the children in Uganda and, ultimately, found Pearl of Africa Series?
RH: I read an article in the New York Times about the Little League team from Uganda who had earned the right to participate in the World Series – the first African team to ever achieve this and a trip of a lifetime for these boys most of whom live in the slums of Kampala. But their dreams were dashed when the U.S. State Dept couldn’t issue the visas due to documentation deficiencies. The story touched me in many ways. I have worked a lot in Africa; baseball is near and dear to my heart – and 2 of my 3 boys live and breathe the sport. The tipping point which propelled me to take action was that the team the Ugandans would have played in that first historic game was the team from Canada – and the team from Canada that year came from Langley BC – just outside of Vancouver where I lived.
It was rather immediate. I decided to find a way to make it up to those boys. It couldn’t be the World Series – but maybe a trip to Canada. I contacted the mayor of Langley and his office was very supportive. But when I finally reached the Coach of the Ugandan team – George Mukhobe – he said it would be the greatest gift for baseball in Uganda – if the Canadian team would come there. After a few hurdles – convincing the parents – finding a charity partner – Right To Play – and raising the funds ($155,000 for educational scholarships, fields, equipment and transportation support) we went to Uganda in January 2012 and spent a wonderful week with the team – on and off the field. We called it the Pearl of Africa Series because Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa.
The Ugandan team beat us 2-1 in the official game – but the Canadian boys and all of their families and fans who came along – including Jimmy Rollins, Gregg Zaun and Derrek Lee, Right To Play, SportsNet, ESPN and other donors – we all agreed it was a storybook ending.
In June 2013 the Canadian team was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award – and the Governor General flew out to Langley to personally hand each boy their award.
So, we launched Pearl of Africa 2- which continued to support the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association – with equipment, coaching support (baseball and softball) and funds to help the players get to games. They just don’t have the bus money to travel outside of their neighbourhoods. We raised $40,000 in 2013-2014.
This year – with the release of the documentary by US filmmaker Jay Shapiro – Opposite Field – public eyes were once again on us and we decided to launch Pearl of Africa 3 – continuing to support the softball and baseball programs, send equipment and replenish the player transportation fund. A goal of $20,000. Our US partner is Play Global (an amazing organization). Our Canadian charity partner is Commonwealth Games Canada.
PS: You are in Uganda now, what do you do with your time there?
RH: I work as an accountant helping non profit organizations improve their financial management practices. US and Canadian organizations which support projects in Uganda (or anywhere for that matter) need confirmation that their funds are used as intended.
PS: What are the most important things you think Pearl of Africa brings to everyone involved?
RH:The game brings us together!
PS: How do the Pins you designed with PinSource play a roll in supporting what you do?
HR: It’s a very tangible way to remember and document the partnership with the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association.
PS: How do people acquire the pins?
HR: I often have a table at Little League games and Softball Tournaments – to let everyone know that kids in Uganda love to play ball too. I sell the pins there and also have the girls and boys sign balls that we will send to Uganda. It gives them another opportunity of feeling the joy of helping others.
PS:What is the future of Pearl of Africa Series?
HR: I think we will continue sending equipment – but we’re branching out to help Kenya and Tanzania.
PS: What else do you want people to know about what is happening in the organization?
HR: Sports is such an important way to build character in our youth – but in places like Uganda it has the power to mean so much more. It gives kids hope and inspiration that their lives will be better. They are talented athletes – and it’s just a matter of time before doors open to scholarships and professional contracts.
PinSource feels fortunate to have been involved in such a positive and important organization. If you are interested in donating to The Pearl of Africa Series or want to learn more info visit their Facebook page or Common Wealth Website.