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21 Jan, 2012

UN Leadership Camp Helps Youth Use Sport To Tackle Social Issues

Doha/Geneva (UNOSDP) 20 January 2012– The inaugural ‘UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp’ concluded yesterday in Doha after eleven days of intense learning. Twenty-nine young people from nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Palestinian Territory enhanced their leadership skills on how to use sport to address pressing social issues affecting their underprivileged communities.

At the end of the camp, all felt empowered and have new plans for their future and that of their peers.“Now I will be able to present to my people back home some new perspectives on their situation and on how to move forward,” says 23-year old Palestinian Basel who, despite his solid knowledge and experience as a physical education teacher and a Paralympic coach, will take away some key lessons from the camp. A strong believer in the power of positive thinking, he adds: “You don’t need to have all the necessary tools in order to create change. You can achieve a lot with limited means but powerful ideas.”

“The students have, until now, mostly been attentive learners; they now have the chance to become active teachers and role models,” insists Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace and initiator of the project.

“This opportunity will be a stepping stone for them to grow personally and as leaders in order to help their communities. We will keep supporting them and will monitor their progress closely,” he adds. “Due to the success of this camp, we will replicate it in order to create a multiplier effect,” Lemke concludes.

Throughout the eleven days of the camp, the participants and their instructors covered a series of important themes, including human rights, health, peace education and the inclusion of persons with disabilities. A strong emphasis was placed on gender equality in particular, with 18 out of the 29 participants being female.

“Before I had a sense that people living with a disability could benefit a lot from practicing sport, but I didn’t know how. Now I know exactly how and I feel much more comfortable working with them,” says 23-year old Jackline, one of the seven participants from Kenya.

Just like all the other participants, Jackline comes from a humble background. She grew up in the Mathare slum of Nairobi where, for the past five years, she has been active in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and girls’ empowerment through football-based activities as a coach for local NGO.

The camp was designed as a platform where deserving young leaders and experienced experts could exchange best practices and learn from each other. Based on a thorough evaluation of the camp, it is intended that several similar camps will take place in the coming years in various parts of the world.

This pilot initiative is the result of the collaboration between the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), the NGO Right To Play and the Aspire Zone Foundation.

Other partners include the International Judo, Basketball, Table Tennis and Lifesaving Federations, Liverpool FC, the German development agency (GIZ) and six specialized NGOs (including Inspirasports as the logistical partner) as well as in-kind donors (namely Puma and the Bundesliga Foundation). Upon the conclusion of the camp, UN Special Adviser Lemke thanked all partners for their invaluable contribution to the success of the project.