Beyond Play : Changing the World through Sports

“Sport has established itself as an effective tool for development and peace-building. Sport for development and peace projects around the world have addressed many of the challenges society has faced.”- Wilfried Lemke 

Football for Life children
Football for Life children

Since time immemorial, sports have been the most popular form of recreation for people. Last April 5, 2015 at Patio Victoria, Brgy. San Jose, Tacloban City, the children, coaches and staff of Football for Life programme, joined the rest of the world in celebrating not only Easter Sunday and the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace (IDSDP).

Best egg hunter!

History of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 6 April as the International Day of Sports and Physical Activity, to celebrate the contribution of sports and physical activity to education, human development, healthy lifestyles and a peaceful world. The 1st International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was celebrated on 6 April 2014.

The choice of the date of 6 April can be explained by the fact that, in 2002, at its 55th session, the Assembly of the World Health Organization, in its resolution WHA 55.23, urged Member States to celebrate a “Move for Health Day” each year to promote physical activity as essential for health and well-being. The date 6 April has been used since the year 2003 by some civil society organizations for celebrating a “World Day for Physical Activity”.

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Potential of Sport for Social Impact

Sport, as a tool for education, development and peace, can promote cooperation, solidarity, tolerance, understanding, social inclusion and health at the local, national and international levels. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

For these reasons, states, the United Nations system and, in particular, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, relevant international organizations, and international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders are invited to cooperate, observe and raise awareness of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

She shoots, she scores.
She shoots, she scores.

Significance of Football for Life Programme in Tacloban

Football for Life (F4L) programme uses sport, specifically football, as a tool in providing psychosocial support for children who are in the process of emotional recovery. It allows children to have fun at a stressful time, connect with each other, collaborate, play and process their experiences.

Why is it important to allow these children to play? According to researches, early and adequate play therapy can:

  • Prevent distress and suffering developing into something more severe
  • Help children cope better and become reconciled to everyday life
  • Help beneficiaries to resume their normal lives
  • Meet community-identified needs

Play is what children consider as work and with F4L’s approach of engaging children through sports, they are indirectly being influenced to be active survivors not passive victime and to further develop their resilience in dealing with disasters.

Having fun in sand.
Having fun in sand.

Building Back Dreams and Communities

There are only a number of psychosocial support being provided post Haiyan. Across the Philippines, there is still a rampant misconception among Filipinos on how there is little need for caring about mental health. Disasters, conflicts and health problems have severe psychosocial consequences. These emotional wounds are less visible than destroyed infrastructures thus it is often looked over. Fact is, it takes longer for people recover from emotional impact than to rebuild buildings and houses. It affects the community and weakens productivity.

Early support and adaptation processes – which respect local customs in mental health or psychosocial healing – allow an affected population to cope better with a difficult situation. Seeing the F4L children taking leadership roles and evolving into better citizens, Taclobanons are realising that sports is not merely recreation for childrenwhere they display their physical skills but also as a way for social change.