Teamwork: Sport for Development benefits Syrian refugees and local communities

Special coaching sessions are giving young people in Jordan the chance to learn not only sporting skills, but also how to support one another and resolve conflicts peacefully.

Many millions of people fleeing the war in Syria end up in the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Iraq. Most live outside refugee camps in host communities that are stretched to breaking point, causing conflicts to erupt time and again.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is setting up sporting activities aimed at both refugees and local communities at around 150 schools in Jordan. What makes this project unique is that the coaching is about more than just boosting physical health. The participants – children and young adults aged between eight and 24 – also receive psychosocial support, with values such as respect, tolerance and self-confidence promoted in a fun way. Whether they teach football, basketball or ultimate frisbee, there is huge demand for these coaching sessions in places where living conditions are often oppressive. They provide the basis for people to live together peacefully in a safe environment and help them come to terms with traumatic experiences caused by war, having to flee and being displaced.

So far, GIZ and its local partner organisations have trained some 260 Sport for Development coaches, with support from the Jordan Football Association, the University of Jordan and the Asian Football Development Project. In addition, Jordan’s Ministry of Education is the most important political partner when it comes to working with schools. Around 40,000 children and young people in Jordan have benefited from this scheme to date.

The unique coaching strategy, which is designed to also encourage personal development, won the international Peace and Sport Award in December 2017. This prize recognises initiatives for their exceptional work in using sport for peacebuilding purposes.

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