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Changing Lives Through Basketball: Drileba Offers lifeline to children in slums

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Tonny Drileba, a point guard for City Oilers and the Uganda national basketball men’s team (Silverbacks) was nominated for the Ubuntu Trophy by the Basketball Africa League (BAL), an award given to the player who has had the most impact on his community. 

A $5,000 prize will be donated to a charity of the winner’s choice.

Deep into Uganda’s slums, life is often accompanied by many struggles, one man’s dedication to his community has become a beacon of hope.

Drilled passionately recalls encountering a lad in the slums of Katanga amidst the shadows of the night, entangled in violent street fights and robbery.

The young man’s life was immensely transformed after he embraced the basketball program at Holystreet Outreach, a non profit organization that Drileba works closely with as a coach.

He is now enrolled in school and his life story has motivated his former colleagues to become part of the program.

Such is the story of many youth under Drilleba’s wing, you can hear the passion in his tone as he shares his vision of a program exclusively designed for girls in primary school.

Seeking not only to teach the game of basketball but also provide free education through scholarships. Drilleba has experience of working with female basketball players as the coach of Angels Basketball Club in the women’s division.

He strongly believes that empowering young girls can ripple through communities, breaking barriers and opening doors to a brighter future.

Every day, over 500 children in Uganda’s slums such as Kamwokya, Katanga, and Kawempe are not only guaranteed a meal, but also the opportunity to learn and grow through basketball training sessions occasionally conducted by Drileba; this is also a huge opportunity for them to escape the challenges that surround them.

“Our help extends to their parents and guardians.” – Drileba speaks passionately about his desire to assist the elderly.

“I believe every elderly person has a story to tell, the hardships they’ve endured and Joyous memories. I am always intrigued, life isn’t going on well for many of them in these slum areas.

They’re still working tirelessly to sustain themselves, it’s heartbreaking!”

However, making a difference is not without its difficulties. Drileba opens up about the country’s bureaucratic barriers that frustrate many projects; often the success of a program can rest on a single signature or approval letter from an official, which usually results in a very long wait or, at worst, denial.

“Our other challenge is lack of facilities, sometimes we train with kids on bare ground, I ounce traveled to a school in Western Uganda and the demarcated area for a court was filled with small stones, the kids had no shoes, some were in their slippers, they didn’t have a backboard but just a ring welded from metal. It’s very tough.

Hopefully the places with good facilities will one day open their doors to us.”

Despite the obstacles, Drileba remains resolute. He acknowledges the financial constraints that limit his endeavors.

“I am not the wealthiest man in the world; there are many things I would like to do, but finances sometimes prevent me from doing so. In the end, we just do our best with what we have, changing one life at a time that’s all we can do.”

With humility, Drileba shares his vision for the future.

“To me, the biggest reward would be seeing every life that we impact improve and return to give to the same community. I really hope we get to have that kind of continuity and hope for more people to join us on this cause.”

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