Queen of Katwe II
By the looks of the title, you might think a sequel to the 2016 Disney movie, Queen of Katwe, was coming to a theater near you. That is not the case, but if there were a sequel, storylines would abound, as much has happened since the movie’s release two years ago.
Uppermost on peoples’ minds might be to wonder what Phiona Mutesi, the young chess prodigy, is doing now. Phiona began studies at Northwest University (Kirkland, WA) in fall 2017 and will return soon (along with Benjamin) for her sophomore year. During her time back in Uganda this summer she traveled extensively to chess tournaments and even to Argentina where she and Coach Robert Katende shared their life stories and how to use chess as a transformative tool.
Ivan, one of the Katwe Slum boys who had traveled with Phiona and Benjamin to Sudan (on that eye-opening airplane ride in the movie), had been teaching school but has recently received a magnificent opportunity to enroll in Uganda Christian University and study civil engineering, a longtime dream of his.
From his humble beginnings as a soccer player, coach, and founder of the Sports Outreach chess ministry, Robert Katende is now SOM (Sports Outreach Ministry) Executive Director for Africa while still directing the Chess Ministry. Starting in 2005 with just one chess board and a handful of “Pioneers,” God has used Robert and the SOM Chess Academy staff (many of them former Pioneers) to teach life principles and nurture Christian character in an expanding arena. Thirteen SOM chess centers now flourish throughout Uganda, and former Pioneers have also helped establish the chess ministry at Sports Outreach sites in Nairobi, Kenya, with the SOM philosophy even helping to shape the chess programs in El Salvador and Lynchburg, VA.
The expanding SOM chess ministry is also providing exciting opportunities for boys and girls who are “differently abled.” This past month, two students, John Mwesigye and Wasswa Sharif, represented Uganda at the World Junior Chess Championship for the Disabled, held in New Jersey. A group of differently abled children meets regularly at the Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped (KSFPH), coached by former Pioneer Julius Ssali. This year a team of KSFPH students has been registered in the Uganda National Chess League, playing alongside over 25 Ugandan chess teams, including five other SOM sponsored teams.
If there were to be a Queen of Katwe II we would give it “two thumbs up,” based on content alone. We know that not everyone will turn out to be a great chess player, but we do know that everyone can be a great individual, empowered and given an opportunity to develop their full potential. So we focus on each participant as an individual, and in the 13 years of the chess ministry we have been able to restore hope and transform lives, develop leaders and productive citizens, and every now and then discover a chess champion in the process. In fact, the Lynchburg Sports Outreach office is losing track of how many have traveled internationally! Phiona’s story is but one example of many whom Sports Outreach serves on a daily basis and we are thankful to God for the way He has made it possible for the less privileged to have an opportunity to dream and to achieve.
“Let them praise the name of the lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalms 148:13
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