Bringing the joy of table tennis to Bhubaneswar schools
Since 2015, World Table Tennis Day (WTTD) has been marked every year on 6 April, to celebrate the sport and the universality and social inclusiveness that it represents. This year’s WTTD was special, as it marked the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, when nine table tennis players from the US visited China, making it the first time in decades that an American delegation has visited China. It eventually helped thaw relations between the two countries, laying groundwork for the establishment of official diplomatic relations between them.
Ping Pong Diplomacy exemplifies the power of sport in bringing about social development, peace, and lasting change. To mark the 50th anniversary of this event, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Foundation sought peace- and change-makers from the grassroots across the world to create dialogues and build bridges in their communities.
Following the call for Promoters of this initiative, Khadija Moin, a peer leader at Pro Sport Development (PSD), worked together with the organization to bring table tennis to almost 200 children in Bhubaneswar, using the game as a platform to discuss gender-based violence and the need for greater gender sensitivity.
From 4-5 April, Khadija and the PSD team went to four community-based schools in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, with a mobile table tennis set-up. The schools included Sai Saraswati School, Ramakrushna Sikhya Kendra, Ambedkar Sikhya Kendra and Government High School Dumduma Village. These were four new schools that PSD had not previously worked with, and the goal was to get 200 new children with little to no experience of table tennis engaged in the game.
The event was a massive success, with children scrambling to get a chance to play table tennis. At the end of the two days, 194 children had been engaged with, of which 87 were boys and 107 were girls. 12 teachers also joined in the festivities.
Supported by the PSD team, Khadija led the activities. It started with an introduction to WTTD and why we celebrate the day, and was followed by introducing the team members. Two table tennis games were specially designed for the celebration, which gave the kids an insight into the game and made them familiar with the equipment. After playing the game and becoming familiar with one another, discussions were held in the hall about the games and what they learnt, emphasizing the values of respect, teamwork and focus.
The games were also connected to the theme of gender awareness, and discussions into the theme were also carried out with the children. Further, handouts and posters on gender stereotypes, gender-based violence and gender equality were posted across the hall, and pamphlets on the same were distributed to all the participating children. The children were also given a t-shirt.
Khadija has been a peer leader with PSD for almost a year now, but this was her first time leading such a big event. The PSD team supported her through every step of the way and organized the event in collaboration with her and PSD's other peer leaders. Speaking of the experience, Khadija said:
For me, I really enjoyed the fact that these were all new schools for me, where I was going in for the first time. Yet the children listened to what I had to say and took an interest in the games as well as the issues. I was quite nervous about leading a group of completely new children, but I became really confident after interacting with the children, and it was a great experience for me.”
Promoting the message of WTTD and Ping Pong Diplomacy, this event highlighted how sport, especially table tennis, can be an avenue for peace and can combat all different kinds of violence that exists in the world.
- Watch a short video of the event