INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: Salesian Missions highlights sports programs that help youth build confidence and teamwork skills
Programs in Ecuador, India, Sierra Leone and Togo use socio-sport programming to enhance education and peer support. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 6, 2020) Salesian Missions joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which is celebrated each year on April 6. The United Nations General Assembly designated the day in 2013, and it has been celebrated each year since 2014. The adoption of this day signifies the increasing recognition by the UN of the positive influence that sports have on the advancement of human rights and on social and economic development.
The UN notes, “Sport as a universal language can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.” In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sport’s role in social progress is further acknowledged: “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
“Sports programs teach youth both on and off the field,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
In honor of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Salesian Missions highlights sports programs in countries around the globe.
In February 2020, Salesian missionaries, led by Father Agustin Togo, launched the Yankuam Jintia Football School for indigenous Achuar communities in Ecuador. Located in the community of Wichimi, the school aims to educate children and older youth about technical skills of the game, as well as ensure that the values of football (soccer) and practice are instilled
in their lives. Fr. Togo chose “From talent to vocation” as the school’s motto to reinforce that children will learn and find their path in life.
“Football moves many people,” said Fr. Togo. “During the World Cup, everyone interrupts their activities to watch the games. The same happens with the Achuar. When there are matches or championships, young people don’t care if they have to walk a week or two, they go to play. I see a great deal of concern among young people to be footballers, to learn to play better, and I asked myself why not try another way of evangelizing through football.”
He added, “Don Bosco has always dreamed that young people were happy in everything they did. They like football so much, why not start a football school for the Achuar.”
Don Bosco High School Matunga, located in Mumbai, India, has been awarded the best “School in India in Sports and Recreational Education Activities” at the India Didactics Association (IDA) Education exhibition and awards program held in September 2019. IDA is the only exclusive membership association in India for education and training engaged in improving learning and teaching.
Don Bosco High School Matunga has state-of-the-art sports and recreational facilities. The school has a sprawling campus that enables a strong sports program. New and renovated sports facilities were recently launched, including a new soccer turf, hockey turf and indoor basketball court. There was also renovation of three existing basketball courts, along with refurbishment of the natural grass soccer ground, cricket grounds and nets for practice.
The school helps promote sport and identify talent by enabling students to attend sports training within the regular school curriculum. The sports program offers gymnastics, skating, judo, karate, chess, speech and drama, arts and crafts, skating, lawn tennis, dance and robotics. Youth are able to choose two activities and receive training during the year.
The Don Bosco Center in Lungi, a small coastal town in the Port Loko District of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, places an emphasis on socio-sports activities as a way for youth to connect with their peers and develop skills. The center offers structured training and learning programs in basketball and soccer as well as hosts various competitions. In 2018, there was tremendous growth in participation and results.
More than 125 young people (80 boys and 45 girls) received soccer training twice a week and 10 boys and 15 girls were trained in basketball twice a week. There were four friendly matches and three trophy competitions.
The Don Bosco center also provides additional academic and financial support. During 2018, 150 students received remedial classes in five subjects, 10 students received scholarship support and 150 students had access to free educational materials. In addition, three seminars were organized with close to 150 participants at each.
The Real Madrid Foundation’s international coaches recently traveled to the Don Bosco Akosséwa Youth Center, which facilitates the Salesian social-sports school for soccer and basketball in Lomé, Togo, to develop a course for educators focused on designing training tasks. During the course, Salesian staff were taught both tactical and technical content and how to put these together during training for students. The training initiative aimed to deepen the understanding of teaching sport methodology.
The Salesian socio-sporting program in Togo provides comprehensive education. As part of the Real Madrid Foundation’s “They play, we educate” program already operating in Salesian schools across the globe, participants receive nutritional, family and psychological support, regular health checkups, and the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops, gymnastics, crafts and reading and citizenship activities. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values, and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse are also provided.
The socio-sports school in Lomé was founded in September 2015 and currently provides education for 610 children. All of the youth come from family backgrounds with low resources and a high degree of vulnerability. The school aims to give the participants the necessary tools to develop in society and improve their living conditions. Within the area of the school where the youth are from, nearly 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
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