“I am taking part in the activities because I like football and it gives me the opportunity to avoid working at home”. (Kamal, 12 years old)
“I enjoy participating in the program because it is the only time I can leave the camp and meet new people”. (Rajaa, 15 years old)
These are only a few of the reasons why the children and young adults are participating in the activities: most of them want to have fun and spent a good time with their friends while they meet new people at the same time. The girls and boys are also happy to learn from the coaches, and to meet young people of different social or religious backgrounds.
The objective of the program is to combine sport and play with the learning of social competences and also to create a platform for inter-religious dialogue. At the end of the sport games and play activities a 10 minute dialogue and discussion is held- the themes and topics differ from time to time, according to the participants’ wishes.
At the moment far more than 100 children from three different schools from southern Beirut and from a Palestinian refugee camp regularly take part in the extra curricula activities. The participants not only enjoy the activities and games very much, the coaches also observed changes in behaviour. At the beginning some of the kids were very aggressive towards the coaches and amongst each other.
Another important observation which could be made over the past year concerns the relationship between the participants and the coaches. During the past year the role of the coaches changed radically: at the beginning they were treated as teachers, with distance and sometimes even suspicion. The weekly reports of the coaches and interviews with the participants show the change in perception: the coaches have become important role models and attachment figures in the participants’ lives, and the children and young adults even share their personal and intimate problems with their coaches. A special kind of friendship developed between the coaches and the children.
In addition to the traditional Monitoring and Evaluation tools which serve at getting an insight into the ongoing activities and to gain scientifically important results, a participative photo monitoring was introduced. The participants get the opportunity to take pictures of the activities and define their choice of three. “My pictures reflect the team spirit, the collaboration and the way the participants respect the rules during the activities,” says 15 year old Georges. 16 year old Nidal says, her pictures “Reflect the harmony among coaches and participants”. The change in behaviour, the motivation for joining the activities and the relationship towards the coaches can be seen in the pictures taken and the explanations given.
The ongoing political tension and violent conflicts in Lebanon create an unstable environment for the young generation. The insecurity as well as the dangerous and difficult living conditions makes the project and its activities even more important than ever. For most of the participants the hours spent with the project are some of the few moments in which they can forget about problems and sorrows and just enjoy themselves and have fun with their friends.
Political tension and violent conflict is, unfortunately, ongoing in Lebanon. It is, therefore, the right time, as our first experiences with the programme have shown, for establishing productive leisure time activities that provide orientation and promote important norms and behaviours. These developments serve to help the children cope with daily life and are a great necessity for their psychosocial wellbeing.
The sport and play programme, which started at the beginning of 2007 was very well received by the participants and there are many indicators of its importance for the participating children. For example they wish to compensate classes, which have to be dropped out for security reasons and they insisted to continue with the activities during summer holiday, although schools are closed. As result, a special programme will now be organized during the summer months. One of our coaches reported that one of the participating boys even jumped from his house window to participate in the activities. Although his parents had nothing against his participation, his mother had coincidentally left and locked the door. Because he was so eager to take part in the activities, he looked for any solution that would let him get to the playground.
At the beginning, coaches reported a hostile and aggressive atmosphere in some of the classes. This aggressive behaviour is understandable, when you take into account the traumatic experiences many of these children have endured. This is especially the case with the Palestinian refugee participants, who face enormously difficult life conditions and are not used to doing sports in a coach-led, group setting.
Despite this initial situation, all coaches observed improvements in fairness and in dealing with aggression several weeks after the project began: ‘The kids are showing progress and much more involvement in the games. They are starting to act as a real team and exhibit a lot of enjoyment in their play time. They react much less aggressively towards us (coaches) and the other participants. Also, the team I’m dealing with expressed great creativity in that they invented many new games; I just brought them the material. In addition they invited participants from the other groups to play their newly-invented games with them.’
Please click below to see photos from the project!
Despite ongoing political tensions in Lebanon we were able to organize a psychosocial and didactic workshop for the project coaches in February 2006. The aim was to prepare the coaches for their vital role in the project and to provide them with important knowledge and expertise concerning the use of sport as a tool to help children overcome emotional injury, to improve their integration, and to impart the basic values of a peaceful and respectful co-existence. About 30 participants took part in the workshop. Besides our 11 project coaches, young employees from other local NGOs attended the workshop as well. These associates from our partner organisation Oum el Nour, World Vision and Message de la Paix were interested in using the ‘sport for social change’ approach in their own projects. Arwa, one of our female coaches commented on the workshop: “I’m very happy that I was a part of this group. The workshop gave me plenty of creative methods. I think by now, I have the tools to manage a team. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had and the most beneficial one. I appreciated learning in this workshop about this tool for social, behavioural, and attitudinal change. I learned that we can achieve many educational aims with kids through sports.”
The sports and play activities with the children have already started in three public schools (two female schools and one male school) in the south of Beirut, a region which was greatly affected by last summer’s war (2006). During the after-school sports programmes our coaches have been supporting the participating children by helping them overcome their traumatic experiences and strengthening their mental and physical well-being.
To increase accountability and effectiveness in psychosocial interventions with children the project will be accompanied by a Monitoring & Evaluation programme, with the aim of drafting documents on “lessons learned” and “best practices”.
Take a look at some of our latest pictures from our sport project. Below are a few pictures. Others are in our photo gallery.
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