INT’L DAY OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: Salesian Missions highlights sports programs
Salesian Missions highlights sports programs that help youth develop leadership skills and relationships with peers.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 6, 2022) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, 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 U.N. of the positive influence that sports have on the advancement of human rights and on social and economic development.
In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sport’s role in social progress is 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. “Learning and playing team sports encourage leadership skills as well as teach 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.
Don Bosco Anbu Illam, located in Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India, has received a donated sports bus thanks to the HCL Foundation, which aims to alleviate poverty through a community development approach. The goal of the donation is to encourage and motivate people who are poor and marginalized to engage in sports-related activities.
The vehicle will transport the elite players from various community centers and government schools for training, coaching, and competitions across southern India. It has comfort features, including air conditioning, a water dispenser and a television.
Salesian programs around the globe have a focus on socio-sports education. Playing sports helps youth learn new skills and engage with their peers. Sports and activity are particularly important during the pandemic.
More than 300 youth, ages 5-17, play sports and learn values thanks to the two social-sports schools the Real Madrid Foundation set up in Senegal with the collaboration of the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid, Spain. The programs are hosted at Salesian schools in Thies and Tambacounda. Most of the project’s participants come from local Salesian centers.
The partnership between the Real Madrid Foundation and the Salesians began in 2010 in Senegal and continued to schools in Central and South America. The first social-sports school was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2012, social-sports schools opened in Portugal. Today, the collaboration has 21 projects in 14 countries and serves nearly 4,000 children each season, using educational sport and its values as a catalyst for the social betterment of youth and communities.
Both the Real Madrid Foundation and the Salesians are aware that sports are important for social integration and the promotion of values like teamwork, communication, respect and team spirit. The social-sports schools are housed in Salesian schools. As part of the Real Madrid Foundation’s “They play, we educate” program, participants receive nutrition, family and psychological support, regular health checkups, 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.
Don Bosco Maputo offers a Real Madrid Social-Sports School in Mozambique’s capital of Maputo. Through soccer and basketball, more than 70 children and adolescents learn values and improve their academic performance.
Don Bosco Maputo Social-Sport School is part of a collaborative initiative between the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation. For three days a week, the students at Don Bosco Maputo participate in training sessions. Mandatory lockdowns as a result of the pandemic decreased sports activities and the number of participants. The project turned to the distribution of food, masks and protective devices as well as awareness-raising initiatives about COVID-19 to avoid infections.
Walter, age 13 and one of the participants in the soccer school, said, “Here we have fun, we learn a lot and make friends. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher. I know that what I’m learning will help me achieve this goal.”
A new basketball court is now available to youth at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda. The idea of creating a space for youth to play sports began in 2019 when a benefactor gave a basketball to the youth. At the time, there was no place where they could use it. From that day forward, youth have been waiting to see a court built where they could play and connect with their peers.
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within the camp. While some have left because of the pandemic, Salesians have remained.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools, and more than 700 families are supported by other initiatives.
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