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Cricket changing lives in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut

Copyrights: Youth Sport Trust International

Cricket changing lives in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Youth Sport Trust International has developed its online training programme and provided young women in refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon, with leadership skills. And it all began with cricket.

Sport, specifically the game of cricket, has become an escape, a source of inspiration for these young women, and is helping them develop new skills – a fantastic example of the power of sport as a force for good.
 
Shatila Refugee Camp was set up as a tent village in Beirut in 1947, and was supposed to be a temporary home for 5,000 Palestinians displaced after the establishment of Israel. Today, it is a slum which has become home for some 40,000 refugees, half from Palestine and half from Syria, and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Now in existence for over 70 years, ‘temporary’ it is not, and it has witnessed war, an infamous massacre and waves of refugees.

Living conditions are poor and often dangerous. The streets are narrow and cluttered, housing is cramped, there is a lack of clean water, power cables are exposed and armed factions run different areas. Access to education is limited, with boys facing child labour and girls being forced into early marriages. The recent catastrophic explosion in the Beirut port area has only added to the issues, leading to food shortages and the destabilisation of an already fragile country where corruption was rife.
                                                                       
However, there is a positive side to Shatila. It has become a place of community, of small businesses and, since October 2018, of cricket. Until then, the sport was completely unknown in the camp and children had nowhere to play. All that changed when Richard Verity, a partner at McKinsey & Company, took a year-long sabbatical to guide an NGO working to support refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. Passionate about cricket himself, he gained access to two fake grass football pitches in Shatila, and set up what was intended to be a one-off weeklong cricket camp.

A few curious children, girls and boys, turned up, and quickly the numbers grew. Weekly sessions were held, and additional hubs have since been established beyond Shatila, enabling competition to take place, and for the refugee youth population to form links with the outside world. Not only are the children having some much-needed fun in their lives and enjoying the benefits of regular physical activity, they are also developing valuable life skills and gaining opportunities for the future.
 
Inspired by the development of cricket in Shatila, Youth Sport Trust International is providing online training to support the development of leadership skills in young women, so that they can lead activity sessions themselves and become role models for their peers. Subject to securing funding, we plan to visit and provide face to face support in the near future. Previously, Youth Sport Trust International has worked with young refugees to develop life skills and promote community cohesion through delivering Peace Camps on behalf of the United Nations Office for Sport and Peace.  

For further information about Youth Sport Trust International visit www.youthsporttrust.org and for further information about Shatila visit www.alsamaproject.com.
 

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]
 

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Youth Sport Trust International

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Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 13:06