The Uganda Kuchus Aquatics team has in the past few years represented Uganda at major world swimming tournaments where they have done exceedingly well and raised the African LGBT flag high. The team has previously been able to partake in these competitions by way of fundraising.
2020 has however started off on a good note as the enthusiastic team has been awarded a scholarship through The International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) to participate in the upcoming tournament in Melbourne. We spoke to Clare Byarugaba, co-founder and member of UKAT who shared how they were able to scoop this scholarship as well as what this meant for the entire team as they get ready for another round of the IGLA games.
Even with this good news, the team of six still needs support from the community and well-wishers as they need to raise what is left of the funds required to take part in the Melbourne championship. Ms. Byarugaba further shares why these championships go beyond the love for a sport to availing individuals with the much needed freedom we crave in our homeland; she also reveals how one can contribute to sending UKAT to these prestigious games.
KT: What is the Melborne2020/IGLA scholarship and how it will benefit the team?
Clare Byarugaba: The International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) has been committed to ensuring that the Uganda Kuchus Aquatic Team(UKAT) is able to access partial funding from its scholarship program. This has enabled us, the only LGBT swim team from Africa, to participate and compete in the IGLA championships since 2016.
The scholarship program by Melbourne 2020 and IGLA is beneficial to us because they have jump-started our fundraising effort from well-wishers to support our bid to travel and participate in the championships.
With their support, UKAT has been able to facilitate participation of between 3 to 6 members each year to travel and participate in a sport they are good at and compete in spaces that provide us with public freedom that we are not familiar with back home.
KT: How did UKAT get the scholarship and how can one contribute to the cause?
Clare Byarugaba: Each of my teammates applied for a scholarship individually through IGLA which we were awarded based on merit.
The scholarship awarded by IGLA has given us a great head start to get UKAT to Melbourne, but the funds are insufficient for all 6 team members. We are therefore seeking additional funding through our fundraising page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/uganda-kuchus-in-australia.
These funds will go towards the purchase air tickets to Melbourne. Any contribution towards this cause will help the Uganda Kuchus Aquatic Team represent Uganda and her LGBTI community in Melbourne.
KT: As team leader, what will UKAT’s going to Melbourne mean to the Ugandan LGBTI community as a whole?
Clare Byarugaba: As co-founder of UKAT, I firmly believe in the role of sport to build, diversity and champion inclusion. When teams come together to compete, politics, sexuality and identity often cease to be important. I, therefore, take deep pride in the fact that UKAT, a small team has been able to represent Uganda in international competitions and in the process gives hope to young aquatic champions who might feel 'different' that it’s possible to compete internationally in a sport they love. (It’s also a fact that we always bring home more medals than the official Ugandan team)