Rwanda Youth Day unites Rwandans through sport and community

by Paul Murphy

Rwanda Youth Day

The University of Notre Dame hosted Rwanda Youth Day on campus on Aug. 14, bringing more than 120 Rwandans from across the Midwest to campus for a day filled with sports, games and community building.

Presented by Notre Dame Athletics, the day started off with remarks from event organizers and a singing of the Rwandan National Anthem—then the games began. Even as storm clouds threatened, attendees played on, facing off in basketball, volleyball and soccer in what one event organizer believes to be the first time two Rwandan teams have faced off at any sport on American soil.

The event served as an opportunity for Rwandans born in the United States to connect with other Rwandans.

“Today is a day of Rwanda. When you live in a foreign country, it’s not every day that we get to get together,” said event organizer Alice Cyusa. “Playing soccer and basketball together, we are united.”

Rwanda Youth Day

Preparations are already underway to plan next year’s Rwanda Youth Day.

“Sports can be a powerful way to nurture and develop young people while bringing people of all ages together to build community, “ said Kevin Dugan, manager of Youth and Community Programs for Notre Dame Athletics. “That is the goal of our Rwandan Youth Day. It’s a great opportunity to use the transformative power of sport to build community while also promoting unity among the Rwandan Diaspora here in the Midwest.”

The event is part of a new initiative, Irish Experience Programs, begun by Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick. The program aims to use Notre Dame Athletics’ key pillars to have a positive influence on young people and to impact the surrounding community.

This fall, Athletics plans to start a free flag football league called the Irish Experience League, which will be held at the Martin Luther King Center on South Bend’s wes tside in conjunction with St. Augustine Parish and the Robinson Community Learning Center.

Contact: Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs, 574-631-8816,