Charity Events | Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi Hold Successful Fundraisers In Bellevue, Washington State
Two of the real life characters portrayed in Disney’s “Queen of Katwe,” are in Bellevue this week from Uganda. Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi — attended a lunch fundraiser at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue Tuesday, Jan.17, to benefit Ugandan-based SOM Chess academy, an outreach started by Katende that teaches chess to street kids there; and Bellevue-based, non-profit America’s Foundation for Chess, also known as First Move.
The first $25,000 will go directly to SOM and will be matched by Disney. The rest of the proceeds are going to First Move.
“Queen of Katwe,” which comes out on DVD and Blu Ray on Jan. 31, chronicles the story of Mutesi, when she was a 9-year-old girl living in the slums and on the streets of Katwe, Uganda. She hears from her brother about a chess club that is giving out food and she goes there.
The man spearheading the club, Katende, a Christian outreach worker, sparks her interest and mentors the young chess prodigy, coaching her to become the chess champion of Uganda and beyond to win international tournaments.
The film about Katende and Mutesi has created much buzz in Hollywood and in film festivals around the globe, and has ties to Bellevue’s Elliott Neff, a chess National Master and founder of the for-profit, Bellevue-based Chess4Life, a business which teaches children ages 5 -12 life skills through the game of chess.
Neff became involved in 2013 when he heard about the story of Ugandan children being empowered in life by this program and learned that Mutesi and Katende were coming to town to speak at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He quickly organized a fundraiser chess tournament for the Ugandan program and met the two Ugandans at that time.
Since then he has been in touch with Mutesi and the Ugandan program. He has helped mentor and teach long distance, and even made a trip to Uganda to help Mutesi and others prepare for the World Chess Olympiad. Neff was on the red carpet when the film premiered in Hollywood Sept. 22, seated with his friends Katende and Mutesi because of his major support for them.
Continuing to cheerlead, Neff says two local universities have offered Mutesi full tuition scholarships, including Seattle Pacific University and Northwest University. In addition, one of the other young people portrayed in the movie, Benjamin Mukumbya, is here as well and has been offered a full tuition scholarship to Northwest University.
However, the scholarships for each of these young adults do not include living expenses like room and board, which could amount to more than $10,000 a year.
Neff’s Chess4Life, which, since its founding in 2005, has reached more than 25,000 children and has also grown beyond teaching kids directly in schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and in its own four locations throughout King County.
Through specially developed, proprietary Chess4Life curriculum and online tech tools, Neff’s expanded vision is now to reach more than a million kids a week. These tools train educators and others to teach this all-important strategic game. “Those tools are in use in Washington; Arizona; California in Los Angeles and San Diego; Texas; and now in the launching phase in Florida, and in a school in Boston and Uganda as well,” says Neff. “ I believe these tools can take children from beginners to national champions.”
Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi were named Uganda’s Tourism ambassadors on Friday January 6th 2017 by the Tourism State Minister, Godfrey Suubi Kiwanda, at the ministry’s head offices in Kampala. He said the dual will enjoy diplomatic privileges, including a red passport, VIP protection while on official duty. Here are some new links on how you can play Phiona Mutesi Online — www.playphiona.com and learn about Coach Katende www.robertkatende.org
Ugandan Diaspora News is proud to celebrate Robert and Phiona’s accomplishments as Uganda’s goodwill ambassadors abroad. We now bring you some of the images from Bellevue, Washington State were the duo has held successful fundraisers for The American Chess Foundation (First Move) during these past two weeks. The article above was first published in the Sound Business Journal and the images below have been provided by Chess4Life and Mr. Robert Katende.