Can football help young people get more engaged in community initiatives? Yes!

26 Oct 2013

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Can football help young people get more engaged in community initiatives? Yes!

Since 2012, the “Young Football Volunteers: Sport and Volunteering for Millennium Development Goals” project has been proving this theory by discovering hundreds of enthusiastic and proactive rural boys and girls who are implementing their own MDG-focused projects.

Aimed at addressing young people’s vulnerability to the accelerating HIV epidemic and to social exclusion in Ukraine,   the “Young Football Volunteers” project has brought together resources from the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine (UNDP), and United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV) to support youth development.  The initiative has been developed and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Football Federation of Ukraine, and The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), all within the framework of the social programme “Youth of Ukraine” and the state project “Let’s Do it Together.” The project actively contributes towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with a particular effort in achieving Goal 6 (combat HIV, malaria and other diseases).

The project utilizes the unique synergy of strategies for youth development first applied in the oblasts of Kherson and Mykolaiv, and Autonomous Republic of Crimea. It uses sport as an enabler to promote social cohesion, strengthen civil society and improve young people’s physical and social health in the project’s pilot districts. It aims to engage young people aged 12 to 20 (with a minimum of 40% girls) living in the rural areas of the oblasts of Kherson, Mykolayiv and the AR Crimea in active and effective participation in decisions regarding their health and the life of their community.

 

In order to achieve the project’s long-term goals, the YFV activities were structured to make the process of rural youth empowerment effective and sustainable. First, the project trained teachers and football coaches to utilize “youth development through football” and ”Fair Play” methodology on HIV/AIDS, violence prevention, and gender-equality in school settings. Fifteen certified trainers from the pilot districts have already extended their knowledge to 340 school teachers in the regions through 28 cascading master classes. Then the trained school teachers conducted Fair Play classes and local sport-for-development events, including football tournaments and awareness-raising campaigns for and in cooperation with local youth. These efforts have so far reached out to over 1284 young people in three regions. 

Following the Fair Play component, the project also educates the same coaches and youth leaders on project development and finances MDG-related projects, thus enhancing their capacity and networking skills with peers and colleagues. This educating component includes informal youth forums, trainings at schools and summer camps, conducting separate volunteer camps and ultimately financing the best youth initiatives.

Youth action plans, prepared by the young participants in the educational events, aim to  encourage local institutions and leaders to involve young people in decision making and development policy. These plans present the specific problem-solving measures to be implemented in the young people’s home communities and provide them with an opportunity to participate in the YFV mini-grants competition.

The project has helped to prepare more than 300 coaches and 2000 young people on Fair Play methodology and also supported 47 local MDG initiatives. The project team plans to reach 6000 young people in total, mostly from rural areas, through sport and educational within three years.

During October 24-26 the project organized the inter-regional football tournament “Sport and Volunteering for Millennium Development Goals” among schoolboys and schoolgirls from the Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts and the A Crimea. It was held at  the Simferopol Stadium of the sports club Arena and brought together seventy two young football players and coaches. The tournament aimed to promote Fair Play methodology and strengthen knowledge of young people on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Ministry of Education and Science, Sports and Youth of Crimea and Crimean Football Federation supported the initiative and were instrumental in organizing this event.  

Medals were awarded to all participants at the tournament, along with diplomas of the YFV Project and football equipment. The main prize at the tournament was a visit to the football facilities and stadium of Crimean Premier League team “Tavriya.” The winning teams had a chance to meet their sport idols and get advice on how to become  top athletes. Young people were excited to have autographs and photos taken with Tavriya players at first class Lokomotiv Stadium.    

In addition to the football competition, young people were offered classes on MDGs through an interactive “MDG tic-tac-toe” game which allowed participants to learn about MDGs in interactive and entertaining way.

“It was interesting for me to learn aboutDGs today through such an interesting game. Now I feel more responsible towards my own health and know how to protect myself and my friends from HIV/AIDS,” says Gulak Olga from Mykolaiv oblast.

“We are grateful to the project for the opportunity to participate in the tournament and play at the professional stadium of the Arena. It is very motivating and rewarding for young athletes from rural areas to meet with their sport idols and get to know their peers from other regions. I am confident that this tournament will be engraved in their memory for years to come”, noted Artur Gusak, coach of Chernanka school of Kahovka district, Kherson oblast.

Davron Mirsagatov, coordinator of the project commended the commitment of coaches who are volunteering their time in order to integrate and apply Fair Play educational methodology into the school curriculum. “The coaches together with young people are already leading small scale development projects in line with MDGs at the community level. We are confident that by seeing their coaches’ commitment, more and more young people will become active in development of their communities.”