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Football for Hope, Peace and Unity – PSMG’s charity for 2016

White & Case’s Tom Lavin introduces the PSMG’s chosen charity for 2016 - Football for Hope, Peace and Unity in Rwanda.

My name is Eric Murangwa Eugene and I am the Founder and Managing Director of Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU), an organisation that uses sport, in particular football, to encourage young people and their communities to be active in the fight against prejudice and intolerance in Rwanda and beyond. I’m very pleased to announce that we have been chosen as the partnering charity of PSMG for 2016.

You may be asking yourselves how two organisations such as FHPU and PSMG come together. The answer is simpler than you might think.  PSMG’s ethos is around bringing people together, within the professional services space, for a common cause.  This common cause includes sharing knowledge, educating others, and ultimately creating a thriving network of professional services marketers. 

This is not wholly dissimilar to the aims of FHPU. As you will hopefully see from reading on, FHPU is also underpinned by the idea of bringing people together for a common cause.  This common cause is raising awareness of the atrocities that took place in Rwanda and laying a positive foundation for the future, both in Rwanda and for the Rwandan communities that exist in the UK.  Many law firms are already involved in fantastic pro-bono work in Rwanda, including the likes of Allen & Overy, Latham & Watkins and Shearman & Sterling.  It is my hope that over the course of 2016 members of PSMG can engage and assist with some of the initiatives we are running both in the UK as well as in Rwanda. 

Working throughout Rwanda and the UK, FHPU recognises that the education and positive mobilisation of young people is essential if Rwandan communities are to achieve social cohesion, reconciliation and self-reliance. With 60% of the population of Rwanda under the age of 24, and many orphaned by the genocide in 1994 or growing up in the post-genocide era, FHPU believes that sport can play a crucial role to ensure such violations never happen again.  Indeed, as a former professional footballer and genocide survivor myself, I know first-hand how important a role sport can play. 

During the genocide I lost 35 members of my own family including my youngest brother, aged just 7 years old at the time. I owe my survival and that of my family to the protection we received from fellow members of the Rayon Sports Team.  I often say football saved my life.  It transcended ethnic differences and ultimately gave me hope for the future.  It is this faith in the beautiful game that led me to establish FHPU. 

FHPU’s Journey

FHPU was founded in 2010. Since then we have been able to achieve a number of successes, including the creation of Team Rwanda UK, a social football programme for the Rwandan community in London.  Team Rwanda UK places great emphasis on educating participants about the importance of unity and reconciliation in the cause of Rwandan national unity.  It promotes the values of fair play, team spirit, discipline, understanding, tolerance and respect.  Since its inception Team Rwanda has worked with hundreds of people young and old.  It is my hope that this continues long into the future. 

As well as being active in the UK, FHPU is of course very much focused on activities in Rwanda itself. In 2011 FHPU initiated a project called Dream Team Football Academy (DTFA) in association with the Association of Former Rwandan Football Players.  DTFA has gone on to become one of the most successful sporting programmes in the country having had participation over from 1500 individuals since its inception.  Other initiatives include the One World Futbol project, which donated 35,000 durable footballs to Rwandan children, and also the Play For Hope: Rwanda20 project.  

Play For Hope: Rwanda20 is a coaching programme, in collaboration with one of our main partners, Coaches Across Continents, designed to work with local community groups both in Rwanda and the UK. The core aim of this programme is to build a network of coaches able to deliver both sporting skills and social values back into their communities.  This programme is run every summer for the last two years and it is my hope that members of the PSMG network will want to get involved and share their valuable experience and knowledge, sporting related or not, with our programme participants.  August 2016 will see the introduction of FHPU Sports Coaching Academy, continuing on from the good work already achieved by Play For Hope: Rwanda20 .  Volunteers will have an opportunity to get hands-on with this programme as with all initiatives run by FHPU.  It is this type of involvement from volunteers that I value most highly.  Being able to see the programme participants grow and develop is truly rewarding. 

As a proud Rwandan I would love to see as many PSMG members as possible come to Rwanda and discover the beauty of our “Thousand Hills” country. It will be a fantastic opportunity not only to participate in the programme but to also learn more about the inspiring story of reconciliation and rebuilding a nation.  My country used to be referred to as “a country of a thousand hills and a thousand problems”.  22 years on from the events in 1994 it is now referred to as “a country of a thousand hills and a thousand solutions”.  This solidifies exactly why we do what we do at FHPU.  We want to make sure that Rwanda is changing for the better in a sustainable fashion.  Your time in Rwanda with FHPU would be a life-changing experience not only for the people you work with but for yourself as well. 

Moving Forward

The long-term aim of FHPU has always been focused towards the establishment of the One Nation One People Sport and Peace Centre in Rwanda. The creation of this centre, albeit an ambitious target, will work to promote peace building between the Rwandan youth and its East African neighbours.  By investing in youth development, the aim is for the centre to become a cornerstone of Rwandan culture and humanity values.  Empowering youths from all over the country to gain skills, experience and to foster positive relations amongst the different socio-economic groups from a young age. 

I’m very excited about the partnership we have formed with PSMG and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming year. At the very least, you can expect a quarterly update on our various initiatives in this very magazine. 

As once the great Mandela said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in the way that little else does. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” We at FHPU we fully believe in this and with your help and support, we believe we can make a huge impact in Rwanda and beyond.  


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