Today’s blog is written by PeacePlayers International Fellow Ashley Johnson about her personal experience working with the United Nations Office for Sport and Development at their Sport for Development Camp.
“Sport is gradually becoming the 7th official language of the United Nations.” What better way to promote connections around the world than through sport, where no words are even necessary?
The United Nations recently began to truly stand behind the belief behind the power of sport. Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace said, “Sport is a powerful tool in promoting gender equality, inclusion of people with disabilities, world peace and development.” In Geneva, The UN Office for Sport and Development has been working tirelessly to ensure that the UN stands behind this movement of sport for development through action not just through words.
This past week, I had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with the UN Office for Sport and Development (UNOSDP) at their Sport for Development Camp for young leaders from Francophone Africa and The Middle East. This was a dream opportunity for me as it truly represented the intersection of my interest, skills, and passions. After spending 27 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, I have a genuine interest in seeing positive development projects implemented in West and Central Africa. What better way to see this through than to share PeacePlayers’ methodology of using sport as a tool for conflict transformation with deserving, young community leaders from these regions?
The camp was organized and implemented by the UNOSDP in collaboration with Right to Play and representatives from the International Paralympic Committee. Thirty young leaders participated in the 11 day camp. PeacePlayers was a perfect fit for the program, which focused on a different theme everyday. The theme of PeacePlayers’ facilitation day was Sport and Conflict Transformation. Through a highly interactive session both in the classroom and on the basketball court, participants developed a greater understanding of conflict and reconciliation as well as practical tools to use sport as a means to break through cycles of conflict. The highlight of the day was the participants’ time on the basketball court when they were taught specific activities and drills to promote connections between individuals and how to break down barriers on the court.
As a facilitator, I was honored to be part of such a special group of young leaders; I learned just as much from them as I’m sure they learned from me. Each and every one of these talented, engaging young leaders is a grassroots activist; they are volunteers who are tirelessly transforming their communities through sport. I believe the 11 days they spent together training and learning with one another inspired each of them to return to their home communities and implement new techniques that will increase the power of their initiatives. The energy and passion in the belief that sport unites was shared amongst everyone from the organizers, facilitators and participants. This belief bonded each of us from the start and will hold us together long into the future as we each continue our efforts in our own communities.