Bringing communities together through sports
It's 2:30 pm and the schools are empty. The young people who used to fill the nearby ground playing football, cricket, kho-kho etc. are now in their homes sharing their room with six of their family members.
On 11 March 2020, WHO declared the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak as a pandemic and reiterated the call for countries to take immediate actions and scale up response to treat, detect and reduce transmission to save people’s lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc across the world and the number of positive cases keeps increasing every day. Due to the spread, everyone is asked to maintain social and physical distance from each other. The schools, playgrounds, and colleges are shut and there is a pause in physical activity among young people and adults.
With complete lockdown in India, young people in India and across the world are suffering. As per UNICEF, without urgent action, this health crisis risks becoming a child-rights crisis. According to a UN report, children have so far largely escaped the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, but the social and economic impact "is potentially catastrophic for millions of children".
We have to work with most vulnerable, young people who come from adversity. Now more than ever, we sit on an opportunity to bring people together through sports during this pandemic.
As Nelson Mandela said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”
With more than 800 million children out of school, it can’t be business as usual. Just like ambulances/doctors/paramedics are first responders to any injuries or diseases, schools and teachers will be the first responders when young people come back to school after the lockdown.
The organisations working with respect to sport for development have to start to focus on safety measures in our programmes. They have to work with schools and teachers to help them when young people comeback to school after lockdown.
The changes this pandemic will bring will require very different skills to survive, thrive and succeed in this fast-changing world. Now more than ever, we need to teach resilience to young people. The world won’t be the same. The schools they go to won’t be the same. Life skills such as problem-solving, creative thinking, managing conflict, taking initiative, and understanding and following instructions should be weaved into learning through sports.
Young people who are able to adapt to this new, fast-changing world through skills and abilities to think creatively, manage conflict, respond with empathy, work in teams, take initiative and be adaptable will be successful in this new world.
The community must be together, and the support should be stronger than ever. The young leaders in the community will help in peer to peer learning. It’s important to share knowledge, learnings and best practice among the community members and organisations working in different segments.
This crisis is also an opportunity for organisations to work together for social change. I believe that collaboration is like a relay race and that everyone is responsible for passing on the baton. It helps to deepen their specialist expertise, acquire experience and boost skills of other organisations.
We have to be ready for the new world and we can’t do this without support from community. Let’s get together and harness the power of sports for one common goal.
Anirban Chakraborty is currently manager of fundraising and employee engagement at Dream a Dream where he manages key corporate accounts along with football grants. He has extensive experience in the sports sector and is currently researching grassroots sports diplomacy.