The Karate for Life Foundation has its roots in the Bushenyi Primary Teachers’ College Karate Club founded by Peace Corps Volunteer Eric Parsons in November 2004 as part of his volunteer service in Uganda. Initially, Eric founded the club simply to provide the college students with a fun and unique extracurricular activity to which they would otherwise not have access. However, after attending a Peace Corps training course on life skills development education and its usefulness in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic currently facing Uganda and most of sub-Saharan Africa, Eric and his wife, Sarah, realized how well the two projects (martial arts training and life skills education) could work together. Thus, in March of 2006, the Bushenyi Life and Activities Skills Team (BLAST) was formed.
Obtaining PEPFAR (President Bush’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) grant funding through the Peace Corps Uganda Office, the BLAST project initiated a series of workshops aimed at training selected college students to be HIV/AIDS life skills ambassadors and peer educators. Included in this group were the karate club’s senior students. Overall, the final goal of this project was, and remains, to develop a dedicated group of Ugandan youth and young adults who are dually trained as both fully-certified martial arts instructors as well as life skills peer educators. These students can then use martial arts as a method to introduce other youth to the Ugandan life skills curriculum, a curriculum that is actively reinforced by the martial arts training. By founding karate/life skills programs of their own in their communities, they will create a naturally occurring cascade effect that will help ensure the spread of the linked life skills and karate curriculum throughout Southwestern Uganda and, perhaps, throughout the entire nation.
As fate would have it, however, Sarah became unexpectedly pregnant in May 2006, necessitating her departure from Uganda. Due to this event, the couple had to leave the country before Eric’s top students had reached a high enough ranking to be fully certified as karate instructors. Hence, after arriving in the US, Eric worked with his wife to found the Karate for Life Foundation. The goal of this project is to support the Ugandan students in any way possible and to continue their development as martial artists and peer role models so that this worthwhile project can continue.
Towards this end, the Karate for Life Foundation is currently raising funds with the goal of helping Felex Forward and Julius Bahati, the group’s senior students, found a local primary school and dojo. Not only will this venture help provide financial stability for Felex and Bahati, but it will also form the home base from which the two can expand the foundation’s educational and life skills development goals.