For over a decade, PeacePlayers International has used sports to bridge divides, develop leaders and change perceptions in conflict-affected and underserved communities around the world. The PPI Sports and Peace Innovation Network (PPI – SPIN), shares that institutional knowledge with others seeking to harness the power of sport for youth civic engagement, leadership development and conflict transformation. Two weeks ago, PPI’s Organizational Learning Specialist, Gunnar Hagstrom, and PPI – South Africa International Fellow, Kristin Degou, traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to work with one of PPI-SPIN’s global partners, Worldwide Orphans (WWO). WWO’s mission is to transform the lives of orphaned children and help them become healthy, independent, productive members of their communities and the world. Together, Gunnar and Kristin trained 23 Ethiopian coaches for a new WWO Soccer League for orphaned children. We sat down with Gunnar this week to learn more about his experience:
What major problems did the children encounter on a day to day basis?
They struggle with basic structure, role models, and education. Orphanages provide a space for the children, however the children do not always have the ability to leave its confines. Worldwide Orphans is helping to run schools and orphanages as well as provide medical care to children, many who are HIV positive.
How are PeacePlayers and World Wide Orphans trying to alleviate some of these issues?
WWO wanted to create a sports program that would help the kids develop into successful adults. With the creation of WWO Soccer League, children now have the opportunity to play, learn, grow, and develop life skills. PeacePlayers worked together with WWO to structure the league where the children could have fun while learning.
In working with the WWO’s Soccer League coaches, what training techniques did you utilize?
All of the training was done through interactive management. We taught the coaches how to break down complex tasks, such as passing a soccer ball, down into the basic footwork mechanics. For a lot of kids, the idea of passing a soccer ball can seem like a daunting task because they fear failure. But by breaking down these tasks, the kids could fully understand how to successfully perform each exercise. This way, we can celebrate not only them becoming soccer players, but we can celebrate all of the successes that they have made along the way.
What was the most memorable part of your trip?
At the end of week we conducted a soccer clinic at a school for over 150 kids. The Soccer League coaches had the opportunity to tryout their newly developed coaching techniques, and we saw tremendous changes in the coaches’ attitudes. A lot of them came in thinking that soccer was only about winning games and championships, but they left with a completely different mindset. They realized that the purpose of the league is not to win a championship but to create relationships with the children and serve as a positive role model.
Have you checked back with WWO to see how the program is progressing?
Yes. Our relationship with WWO is a continuous supporting relationship. We have weekly check-ins, and we will be doing a follow up training in April.