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. Three weeks ago, PPI’s Organizational Learning Specialist, Gunnar Hagstrom, traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the second time to check in with one of PPI-SPIN’s global partners, Worldwide Orphans (WWO), after last visiting in October. 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.
Back in October, Gunnar and former PPI – South Africa Fellow, Kristin Degou, trained 23 Ethiopian coaches for a new WWO Soccer League for orphaned children. Now six months later, Gunnar returned for a follow up training and to check in on the first few months of the pilot program. Despite the program kicking off in December, it has already shown to have a positive impact on the participants.
After only four months of programming, all of the coaches had had a great and very valuable experience. Unlike many pilot programs, this one began with over 400 kids, so the coaches were thrown right into the thick of things, giving them a lot to talk about. Gunnar and all of the coaches drew up a coaching framework based on the WWO way. The group set up a structured practice schedule, not in terms of drills but how to best reach the children, be trauma sensitive and have fun. This included a warm-up, skill-based training, and a cool-down period to reflect, among other things.
The pilot program will continue until June but the long term goal is to create a WWO All-Star team that could participate and play in a youth soccer league in the area. As long as the coaches and kids continue to progress step by step and celebrate each success they encounter, there is no doubt that they will get there.