Sports and development

Sports are increasingly used as a tool to reach development objectives. These objectives can be personal, like recovery from addiction or staying at a healthy weight. The goals can also be at the community level, such as providing recreational activities to low-income neighborhoods, or regaining a sense of calm and purpose in a chaotic slum environment. Sports can also serve a national aim, such as protesting a government decision. Read on to learn more about initiatives using sports for development in six cities across the globe — from Nairobi, Mumbai, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, our new hub in Cairo, and two new contributors from Jakarta — then join the conversation in the comments below.


Howaida Kamel, Cairo Community ManagerFootball tournaments for peace

Howaida Kamel, Cairo Community Manager

In response to the increasing violence that has spread around Egypt in the wake of the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution, President Mohamed Morsi's latest action has been to implement both a curfew from 9pm to 6am, as well as a state of emergency law in the governorates of Port Said, Suez, and Ismaileya. Political activists and organizations immediately began to organize mass protests and to mobilize residents to take to the streets starting at 9pm. However, the one initiative that received the most media attention, both through social and cable news outlets, was not the "million man march" declared in Port Said; it was the football tournament that was announced via Twitter and Facebook.

Organized by the dedicated fans of the Ismaileya club's first team, the "Ultras," the tournament took place on the 28th at Horeya Square and the 29th at Mamar Square, beginning at 9pm on both nights. By taking place in public spaces, the tournaments were used as a way to bring people to the streets in a different manner than traditional protests, while still making a statement against the President's unilateral decision. Support for this event did not only occur in the streets, but also online: people re-tweeted about the event all over the nation in solidarity. For many Egyptians, this type of political activism is different than the other forms currently emerging, like the Black Block, who voice their opinions with violence and vandalism. The football tournament gathered support because it allowed the people to come and cheer for each other, rather than congregate in pity, anger, or spite.

One tweet in support of the tournament even tagged the Cairo Stadium and Egyptian Olympic Committee accounts, suggesting they announce the scores of these matches on their web pages. While this tweet was written humoristically, it highlights the fact that there is little support from national sports organizations towards local initiatives encouraging positive involvement in athletic competitions and activities.

In an effort to bridge this gap, the National Sports Council has recently implemented the Sport for Development 2012-2015 program in partnership with the Dutch Ministry. This initiative aims to encourage the use of sports for development and peace, especially for marginalized youth and women. This is done by training coaches, administrators, and leaders on effective practices and through increased coordination between local and national networks. The recent fact-finding mission noted that the success of this plan hinges on continued collaboration between the local and national levels of governance.

In order for this long-term plan to be successful, it is imperative for the National Sports Council to show its support to local sports initiatives rather than only sponsor events that are centrally planned. Even something as simple as reporting scores for a locally-organized tournament can be a powerful tool for positively reinforcing sport practices and allowing the Egyptian people to once again regain their pride and morale.

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community ManagerYoga for development

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager

Every Thursday at 10am a motley group of people gathers in a circle in Nairobi's Arboretum — a small park that lies adjacent to the president's compound — to engage in an intense two-hour session of power yoga.

Anyone can attend the practice free of charge and the occasional Mzungu (white person) or Mhindi (Indian) has been known to take advantage of this unique class. Nevertheless, the main component of the group are youngsters who hail from the poorer part of Kangemi, a neighbourhood on the north western periphery of Nairobi.

The Africa Yoga Project (AYP), was founded in 2007 by New Yorker Paige Elenson, after coming to Kenya on a safari. During the course of her stay, Elenson — already a certified Baron Baptiste power vinyasa yoga teacher — had a chance encounter with a group of professional acrobats who became excited at the prospect of expanding their skills through this new and alien practice.

Upon Elenson's return to the States, the acrobats got in touch with her and she organized to come back and teach them what she knew. Shortly thereafter, the infamous elections took place in Kenya which were followed by a month-long period of violence that shook the country to its core, leaving many youth from the slums emotionally scarred and traumatized.

According to Walter Mugwe, 24, one of the acrobats who is now fully trained as a yoga teacher, the violence changed Elenson's approach as to how to teach the practice in the context of the slums.

"The AYP started as a way to reform and provide therapy for youth who had gone through those terrible weeks in 2008," says Mugwe. "Personally I fell in love with it right away, because it filled me with this amazing sense of calm when I felt that everything around me was chaos."

In the years since the project has begun, the practice has evolved to suit the specific needs of the community. Mugwe explains that the content of the practice has remained approximately 80 percent the same as it was, but that the remaining 20 percent is an adaptation which better suits the physical shape of the youth here, who are stronger but less flexible than their northern counterparts. Another difference, he notes, is that Kenyans already consume quite a balanced diet, so there is less emphasis on special dietary requirements, which can prove expensive for someone living on a dollar a day.

"Yoga practice is very important to all of us because it teaches us to take good care of ourselves, not just physically but also mentally," says Mugwe. "We live in a toxified world, and living in the slums there are few opportunities to get in touch with our bodies and learn how to treat them right."

The project's goals are far-reaching; the objective is not just to give poor people the chance to discover yoga, but also to provide employment for the teachers and, where possible, to invest in the community. To date, AYP employs 58 teachers who are paid to conduct free community outreach classes and are also available for private sessions around the city. Mugwe tells us that the aim is to employ a total of 200 people by 2015 and to continue to expand the project's scholarship and international exchange program.

"When Paige started coming to the community to teach yoga," Mugwe concludes, "most of the people were very suspicious because they thought it would take them away from their religious beliefs. Afterwards we found out that the spirituality of yoga is complimentary to all religions, making our relationship to God stronger but also helping us accept other people's different faiths."

For anyone — religious or not — who has ever taken part of the Arboretum session, this connection between the spiritual and the intense physical aspect of African power yoga is an experience that will not easily be forgotten.

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerGames of life

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

Rahul Pol's karate class as a teenager changed the course of his life. When he was young, his family — he, his parents, and three younger sisters — lived on the streets of Mumbai for four years. He had dreams of becoming a doctor, but the difficult life began to wear on him. Pol soon lost motivation to go to school and began picking up small jobs on the street. "It was a bad environment with many bad influences," recalls Pol. By age 12, he was an addict, taking drugs, drinking, and overdosing on over-the-counter medications. "Every night, I said I'll wake up and stop today, but then I would end up with my friends and the cycle continued," admits Pol, who is now 24.

Eventually, his family moved into a room in Dharavi and Pol was sent to his aunt's village outside of Mumbai. It was in the village that he joined a karate class. The experience helped him to kick his habit, and has inspired him to launch an NGO in Mumbai dedicated to helping other youth addicts through sports. The Unity Foundation now runs programs in Mumbai's largest slum, Dharavi, where addiction levels are reported to be very high.

A 2011 report in the Journal of Family Welfare explored risky behavior by youths in the slums of Mumbai and found that while alcohol dependency is a universal problem — in both the developing and developed world — there seem to be differences in the reasons behind addiction. In the developed world and in richer sections of developing countries, the purpose "seems to be sensation-seeking and desire for hallucination." However, the article argues that in the developing world, "culturally, the reason for alcohol abuse is strongly associated as a means of tension relief. Undoubtedly, the severity of the problem is more acute in slums as people living in slums are poor, mainly migrant, and are exposed to the modern cosmopolitan western culture." In fact, 58 percent of respondents from Mumbai's slums in the article's survey reported to have tried alcohol regularly (defined as at least once in a week) or sometimes (defined as least once in a month).

The disturbingly high numbers have motivated Pol to expand his program to as many children as possible. Sports are universally appreciated among youth, so it has proven to be a good inroad to getting the young addicts to begin participating in Youth Foundation's programs. Athletics, Pol believes, teaches discipline, structure, teamwork, and, above all, gives young people a healthy outlet for spending their time. Youth Foundation also offers group and individual counseling, and once the recovery process happens, Pol connects the youngsters — most of whom have dropped out of school — with vocational training programs.

Pol is not alone in his endeavor to incorporate sports with teaching life lessons for at-risk youth. Ashok Rathod, a 22-year-old from Mumbai's Ambedkar colony, a large slum in the city, started the Organization for Social Change Awareness and Responsibility (OSCAR) Foundation in his home slum area in 2006. OSCAR uses football to address community issues. "With a strong focus on education, OSCAR aims to break the cycle of substance abuse, gambling and early marriage which particularly affects young people who have dropped out of school," says the organization's site.

For his efforts, Rathod won the Real Heroes Award in 2009, which is given by CNN-IBN. An article on the award says that Rathod grew up in the slum and "was one of the few children from the slum who went to school and a chance encounter with an NGO gave him a new goal." That NGO was Magic Bus, the best-known program in Mumbai incorporating sports and games into the lives of underpriveleged youth. Today, Magic Bus has expanded all over India using its unique Activity Based Curriculum (ABC), which uses games to make change. "Forty sessions per year — each with a lesson — teach children about education, gender, health, and key issues affecting them. The games excel in building physical, social, and personal skills," says Magic Bus's site.

Back in Dharavi, Rahul Pol gathers his young addicts on a dirt pitch for their regular karate moves. The programs prove that sports have the potential to be more than recreation activities; for these youngsters, each move is a step toward sobriety and hope for a better future.

Widya Anggraini, Jakarta ContributorOlah-raga untuk semua dan hak penyandang cacat

Widya Anggraini, Jakarta Contributor

"Men sana in corpore sano". Di dalam tubuh yang sehat terdapat jiwa yang sehat. Itulah slogan olah raga yang terbiasa kita dengar. Bukan tanpa alasan tentunya, sebab olah raga merupakan aktivitas penting yang mengajarkan nilai-nilai tentang kebersamaan, kejujuran, sportifitas, daya tahan fisik dan mental. Namun apakah setiap orang sudah mendapatkan kesempataan berolah-raga atau adakah diskriminasi yang tidak kita sadari selama ini tentang siapa saja yang patut berolah-raga?

Penyandang cacat sebagai kelompok minoritas di Jakarta cenderung mendapat diskriminasi fasilitas dan perlakuan. Harus diakui bahwa sarana dan prasarana di ibu kota belum ramah dan berpihak pada para difabel yang jumlahnya kini mencapi 21 ribu orang menurut data dari Dinas Sosial DKI Jakarta. Minusnya gelanggang olah raga yang tersedia dan bisa diakses para penyandang cacat menyebabkan mereka sering terabaikan haknya. Diskriminasi akibat ketidaksempurnaan fisik dianggap penghalang untuk beraktivitas sehingga masyarakat cenderung meminggirkan mereka dan adanya persepsi yang menganggap bahwa cacat sama dengan sakit sehingga perlu mendapat perlakuan khusus sering membuat difabel tidak mandiri.

Situasi kurang menguntungkan para penyandang cacat memunculkan banyak aksi peduli dengan membentuk komunitas peduli penyandang cacat, salah satunya adalah Blind Inspiring Smart and Active Foundation (BISA Foundation) yang menggagas Bike for Hope. Dengan sepeda yang dirancang khusus para difabel dapat bersepeda santai di tempat umum. Gagasan ini muncul setelah melihat minimnya kegiatan olah raga dan rekreasi bagi penyandang cacat. Sepeda yang dimodifikasi ini merupakan rancangan alumni ITB dengan konsep sepeda tandem yang bisa dikendarai oleh 4 orang. Aktivitas sepeda santai ini sering diadakan pada saat car free day di wilayah ibu kota Jakarta dan Bandung. Inovasi olah raga bagi difabel juga dikembangkan oleh mereka yang gemar tenis kursi roda dan bulutangkis dengan membuat kursi roda khusus dan sabuk pengaman seperti yang digunakan Klub Tenis Kursi Roda Fatmawati dan anggota Persatuan Paraplegi Indonesia (Perpari) di Jakarta.

Penyelenggaraan olah raga outdoor oleh para penyandang cacat sering merupakan wadah sosialisasi agar masyarakat terbiasa dengan keberadaan difabel dan merubah persepsi yang sering merendahan penyandang cacat dan disaat yang sama juga meningkatkan kepercayaan diri para difabel. Yayasan Budi Asih di kawasan Duren Sawit, Jakarta Timur yang dipimpin oleh Ibu Retno Astoeti Aryanto, termasuk kerap melakukan aktivitas olah raga di ruang publik bersama anak didiknya yang tunagrahita. Beliau juga menginisiasi Special Olympic Indonesia (SOIna) di tahun 1989 dengan tujuan awal memupuk kepercayaan diri pada anak, belajar bersih, disiplin dan sehat. SOIna merupakan satu-satunya organisasi dengan akreditasi dari Special Olympics International (SOI) untuk pelatihan dan kompetisi olahraga bagi penyandang tunagrahita.

Tidak mudah memang untuk mereduksi kesenjangan dan diskriminasi di bidang olah raga yang dihadapi para penyandang cacat. Kolaborasi dari masyarakat, pemerintah dan pihak swasta diharapkan mampu mengatasi kesenjangan tersebut. Contoh tanggung jawab sosial diperlihatkan oleh BII yang melalui dana CSR-nya dengan menggelar Kejuaraan Tenis Kursi Roda Internasional BII Indonesia Open yang telah dilaksanakan sejak tahun 2010. Dengan semangat memajukan tenis kursi roda di tanah air, BII juga membatu merenovasi dua lapangan tenis di Jakarta dan memberikan tiga unit kursi roda khusus bagi tenis kursi roda kepada Persatuan Paraplegia Indonesia. Di sisi lain pemerintah DKI Jakarta juga telah menjawab permasalahan diskriminasi penyandang cacat dengan mengeluarkan Perda No 10 Tahun 2011 tentang Penyandang Cacat yang akan segera diikuti dengan pelaksanaan berbagai program dan penyediaan beragam fasilitas termasuk sarana dan prasarana olah-raga yang bisa diakses oleh kaum difabel.

Nanda Ratna Astuti, Jakarta ContributorPembinaan bakat di bidang olahraga untuk anak-anak

Nanda Ratna Astuti, Jakarta Contributor

Kaum muda menjadi mayoritas penduduk di kawasan perkotaan, seperti Jakarta. Kalangan muda yang didalamnya terdapat anak-anak, remaja dan pemuda tidak dapat dipisahkan dari kegiatan olahraga. Usia muda identik dengan kondisi fisik yang prima, dan energi yang berlebih serta keinginan untuk terus aktif, menjadi ‘pasangan’ yang cocok untuk berbagai jenis olahraga. Pada umumnya semua orang sudah melakukan kegiatan olahraga sejak kecil, yaitu sejak bisa berdiri dan berjalan. Dan saat beranjak ke usia sekolah, anak-anak sangat menyukai kegiatan olahraga, terutama yang bersifat permainan seperti sepak bola, bola basket, bulutangkis maupun bola voli.

Seperti yang kita tahu, olahraga tidak hanya melatih kemampuan fisik, namun juga membentuk kepribadian yang baik. Dengan semangat sportivititas dan kerjasama tim, olahraga menjadi sarana aktualisasi diri yang sangat tepat bagi jiwa muda. Karena rasa ingin tahu dan energi yang kadng berlebih, tidak jarang anak muda terjerumus kedalam kegiatan-kegiatan yang negatif seperti narkoba, pergaulan bebas dan tawuran. Daripada terjerumus ke dalam hal-hal negatif seperti itu, sebaiknya anak-anak muda ini sejak dini diarahkan untuk mengikuti kegiatan yang sesuai dengan minat dan bakatnya, contohnya kegiatan olahraga. Apabila seorang anak sudah terlihat bakatnya di bidang olahraga tertentu, sudah selayaknya anak tersebut mendapatkan pembinaan di bidang tersebut. Untuk mereka dari kalangan menengah keatas, mereka dapat dengan mudah memasukkan anak mereka di sekolah sepakbola ataupun klub bulutangkis, tetapi hal tersebut tidak mudah bagi anak-anak dari kalangan bawah karena ad biaya cukup besar yang harus dikeluarkan untuk mengikuti pembinaan tersebut. Saat ini belum banyak instansi yang menyediakan program pembinaan olahraga untuk anak kurang mampu. Anak-anak yang biasanya ada di kampung-kampung di perkotaan ini kebanyakan menyalurkan bakatnya melalui pertandingan sepakbola “tarkam” (antar kampung) ataupun bermain bulutangkis di gang-gang sempit depan rumah mereka. Sungguh sangat disayangkan, karena bisa saja diantara anak-anak tersebut sebenarnya memiliki bakat layaknya atlet-atlet profesional dan bakat tersebut dapat saja mengubah nasib mereka yang kurang beruntung tersebut.

Program pengembangan bakat di bidang olahraga, khususnya untuk anak-anak kurang mampu, dapat menjadi salah satu solusi untuk mengentaskan kemiskinan. Apabila bakat-bakat yang ada diberikan kesempatan dan fasilitas untuk dapat berlatih dan menjadi lebih baik lagi. Banyak atlet-atlet ternama di dalam maupun luar negeri yang pada awalnya berasal dari keluarga kurang mampu. Namun, karena ketekunan dalam berlatih dan berusaha mereka dapat menjadi bintang di lapangan dan mengangkat derajat hidup keluarganya.

Program ini adalah MILO School Competition (MSC), sebuah program pengembangan bakat di bidang olahraga bulutangkis hasil kerjasama Dinas-dinas Pendidikan Kota dan Kabupaten, Persatuan Bulutangkis Seluruh Indonesia (PBSI), dengan produsen susu "MILO" dari Nestle sebagai sponsor utama. Meskipun berupa kompetisi, namun tujuan program ini adalah mencari dan mengembangakn bibit-bibit baru di bidang bulutangkis. Kompetisi diadakan untuk anak-anak usia SD dan SMP di berbagai kota di Indonesia seperti Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Malang, Jambi dan Manado dengan babak final di Jakarta. Semua anak-anak usia SD dan SMP dapat mengikuti program ini tanpa dibebankan biaya, sehingga mereka yang kurang mampu juga dapat ikut serta dalam kompetisi ini. Para finalis dari tiap kota akan mendapatkan pelatihan di Taufik Hidayat Training Camp selama bertanding di Jakarta. Di dalam pelatihan tersebut, anak-anak tidak hanya diberikan materi mengenai teknik bermain tetapi juga mengenai kerjasama tim, kepemimpinan, kerja keras dan sportivitas. Sehingga mereka dapat berkembang menjadi atlet-atlet muda yang memiliki kemampuan individual yang baik, dapat bekerja sama dalam tim dan juga memiliki nilai-nilai kepribadian yang baik. Materi diberikan oleh atlet-atlet bulutangkis ternama seperti Taufik Hidayat dan Ricky Subagja. Program MSC ini sudah dilaksanakan sejak tahun 2002 dan telah melahirkan atlet-atlet bulutangkis nasional antara lain Adriyanti Firdasari dan Tommy Sugiarto.

Tidak jarang juga dalam kompetisi ini, ada pencari bakat dari klub-klub profesional datang untuk mencari talenta baru dan memberikan pelatihan lebih lanjut, tidak hanya untuk yang menjadi juara saja. Melalui program pelatihan dan pengembangan bakat di bidang olahraga ini, mereka tidak hanya menyalurkan minat dan bakatnya, namun juga memiliki kesempatan untuk merubah taraf kehidupannya menjadi lebih baik. Apabila mereka tidak menjadi atlet profesional sekalipun, mereka memiliki banyak nilai-nilai positif di dalam diri mereka sehingga menjadi pribadi yang lebih baik dari sebelumnya dan dapat membuka jalan untuk kesempatan di bidang lain.

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerFutbol para la salud

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

Four of every ten primary-school children in Mexico City are overweight. This problem is strongly related to poverty: children living with low food security are 61 percent more likely to be overweight. In this context, the Mexican Soccer Federation and the Ministry of Health launched the "11 Plays for Health" program to promote healthy habits for children in vulnerable communities. Although the program is too recent to evaluate its impact, it is considered an innovative social project, giving policy-creators and experts high hopes.

La Ciudad de México, es hogar de los niños con más sobrepeso y obesidad del país. De acuerdo a la organización El Poder del Consumidor, cuatro de cada diez niños en edad escolar en el D.F. padecen sobrepeso u obesidad. Además de ser un problema relacionado con los hábitos de consumo, la obesidad es más común entre la población más vulnerable de educación y recursos. Investigaciones del Consejo Nacional de la Raza (NCLR) en Estados Unidos, demostró que los niños latinos viviendo en hogares con muy poca seguridad alimentaria son el 61 por ciento más propensos a tener sobrepeso que los niños que viven en hogares en condiciones alimentarias más favorables; puesto que las familias adoptan estrategias para administrar el presupuesto al adquirir alimentos de bajo costo y con alto contenido calórico para satisfacer su hambre.

En este contexto, la FIFA, la Federación Mexicana de Fútbol (FEMEXFUT) y la Secretaría de Salud del Gobierno Federal desde el 2011 implementan en la Ciudad de México, Puebla y Estado de México el programa piloto "11 Jugadas para la Salud", cuyo objetivo es promover hábitos saludables en los niños y jóvenes para comprometerse con la actividad física, evitar la obesidad el sobre peso y adicciones.

La estrategia se compone de once sesiones que enseñan habilidades de fútbol, acompañadas de once mensajes de salud fundamentales vinculados a una acción específica de este deporte, que impulsan valores y conductas sanas:

  • Juega: El fútbol es una forma saludable de actividad física.
  • Pasa el balón: Respeta a niñas y mujeres.
  • Cabecea: Protégete del SIDA y las Enfermedades de Transmisión Sexual.
  • Regatea: Evita las drogas, el alcohol y el tabaco.
  • Controla el balón: Controla tu peso.
  • Defiende: Lávate las manos.
  • Para el balón: Bebe agua potable.
  • Ponte en forma: Sigue una dieta equilibrada.
  • Haz lanzamientos de balón: Vacúnate.
  • Para goles: Tómate la medicación prescrita.
  • Trabaja en equipo: Juega limpio.

Para su implementación la FIFA capacitó a profesores de educación física de escuelas públicas, y jóvenes pertenecientes a los Clubes Deportivos de los equipos del Cruz Azul Toluca y Puebla, de manera que ellos transmitan los mensajes a los niños a través de las sesiones deportivas en las escuelas. Las habilidades de fútbol y mensajes de salud se aprenden en los juegos de grupo durante sesiones de 90 minutos, en donde la primera parte de la sesión se instruye la habilidad a través de la práctica del fútbol, y en la segunda parte se informa sobre el problema de salud en específico y los hábitos saludables para contrarrestarlo. Al iniciar el programa piloto y al finalizar la intervención de las once sesiones, los niños fueron evaluados por medio de un cuestionario para identificar el cambio de conducta y la adopción de hábitos saludables en relación a los mensajes transmitidos.

El proyecto piloto en México es un simil de la estrategia implementada por la FIFA en diversos países africanos "11 for Health". El Director Médico de la FIFA Dr. Jiri Dvorak, afirma que el éxito alcanzado en las fases piloto en Sudáfrica (2009), Zimbabwe (2010), Mauricio (2010) y México (2011) ha demostrado que simples mensajes expresados a través de una serie de habilidades futbolísticas, puede aumentar la conciencia entre los niños e incluso animarles a cambiar sus hábitos relacionados con la salud.

Miguel Limón, funcionario de la Secretaría de Salud de la Administración Federal 2006-2012, afirma que entre las fortalezas de este proyecto se encuentra "el hacer la promoción y educación de la salud de forma lúdica, en donde tocar temas relacionados con una buena alimentación, el reconocimiento de valores sociales, el tener mejores prácticas de higiene y preventivas de salud, se logra a través de la práctica del deporte como actividad central".

Actualmente, los actores involucrados analizan la posibilidad de escalar el proyecto a partir de este año a más escuelas con el apoyo de la nueva administración del gobierno Federal, siendo el objetivo contrarrestar el principal problema de salud infantil.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerPublic 'sports for development' initiatives in Rio

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

Sports and education programs targeted to children and adolescents have been successful in increasing teamwork, reducing violence, raising academic achievement, and improving social inclusion. In Rio, this approach of integrating sports and education is widely utilized, in both public and private sectors.

According to a recent study from the National Institute of Educational Research Anisio Teixeira, 71 percent of the 1,379 municipal schools within the city offer sports activities. The local government's Secretariat of Sports and Recreation works with the Secretariat of Education and with the public school network to offer sports activities taught by trained personnel. It also offers trainings and various activities through sports facilities known as Olympic Vilas (Vilas Olímpicas).

The city has more than 10 Olympic Vilas, all located in low-income neighborhoods. They offer various sports activities, targeted to different age groups. Some of these centers, like the Olympic Vila Félix Mielli Venerando, offer recreational activities for the physical and mentally disabled. Sports include running, swimming, dance, and exercises to improve psychomotor skills. Other venues offer innovative sports training. For example, the Olympic Vila Oscar Schmidt is located in a low-income neighborhood far from the city's pretty beaches, but includes beach volleyball facilities — with beach sand included!

In the context of the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, the local government has recently introduced several relevant initiatives. In 2011, it launched the Rio Fit for the Olympics project (Rio em Forma Olímpico), which provides low-income neighborhoods with free sports and recreational activities led by experienced trainers. Interestingly, the program is active in areas where educational test scores are low.

In addition, the local government is expanding the coverage of a new and innovative public sports facility known as Olympic Experimental Gymnasium or GEO (Ginásio Experimental Olímpico), which promotes academic training and sports development programs for teens between the 6th and 8th grades. GEOs aim at enabling access to good quality training for students with exceptional sports skills who come from low-income communities. The city has already opened a facility in Santa Teresa, which offers free training for soccer, racing, swimming, judo, handball, ping pong, and chess. This GEO opened in mid-2012 and already has 350 active students; the city plans to open four more similar venues, including a Paralympics facility.

The greatest challenge for the local government with regard to these initiatives is to ensure that all of them are sustained over the long-term and that they are maintained after the World Cup and the Olympics.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerIniciativas públicas de promoção do esporte no Rio

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

Trabalho em equipe, prevenção de violência, desenvolvimento acadêmico e inclusão social; são alguns dos muitos resultados associados aos programas de esporte e educação integral de crianças e adolescentes desenvolvidos em varias cidades do mundo. Especificamente no Rio, a abordagem integral do esporte com atividades educativas está sendo bastante utilizada, inclusive pela rede pública.

Em termos de serviços públicos de esporte, Rio tem avançado muito. Segundo um estudo recente do Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira, 71 por cento das 1379 escolas municipais oferecem prática esportiva. A Secretaria Municipal de Esportes e Lazer trabalha conjuntamente com a Secretaria Municipal de Educação e com as escolas da rede para oferecer atividades esportivas com pessoal treinado. Também oferece varias atividades esportivas em equipamentos denominados Vilas Olímpicas.

A cidade tem mais de 10 Vilas Olímpicas todas localizadas em áreas de baixa renda; elas oferecem diferentes atividades esportivas para todas as faixas etárias e interesses esportivos. Incluso alguns destes centros, como a Vila Olímpica Félix Miéli Venerando, oferecem atividades para deficientes físicos e mentais incluindo atletismo, natação adaptada, dança e psicomotricidade. Podem participar pessoas a partir de 1 ano de idade até a terceira idade. Outros equipamentos oferecem praticas de esportes não tradicionais, como a Vila Olimpica Oscar Schmidt, que fica numa área de baixa renda da Zona Oeste da cidade bem distante da praia. Esta Vila oferece uma quadra de areia para praticar vôlei de praia, pois tem vários moradores que ativamente praticam aquele esporte embora estejam muito longe da praia.

No contexto da próxima Copa do Mundo 2014 e das Olimpíadas 2016, o governo local tem lançado recentemente várias iniciativas. Por exemplo, em 2011 lançou o projeto Rio em Forma Olímpico, que visa atender comunidades de baixa renda com iniciativas de esporte e lazer todas instruídas por profissionais qualificados. Os núcleos deste projeto estão sendo implantados nas comunidades mais vulneráveis da cidade e aquelas que apresentam baixo índice de desenvolvimento educacional.

Adicionalmente, a Secretaria Municipal de Educação está liderando a ampliação da cobertura de um equipamento inovador denominado Ginásio Experimental Olímpico (GEO) que une desenvolvimento acadêmico e esportivo para alunos do 6° ao 8° ano da rede pública. O GEO tem como principal objetivo dar oportunidade para que os alunos com aptidões esportivas consigam desenvolver seu potencial, sem abrir mão de uma boa educação. A primeira escola do programa está localizada em Santa Teresa e oferece treinamentos em futebol, vôlei, atletismo, natação, judô, handebol, tênis de mesa e xadrez. Começou a funcionar no início de 2012 e já atende a 350 alunos. Está previsto que a cidade terá mais quatro Ginásios Experimentais Olímpicos, onde um deles será um Paralímpico.

O maior desafio para o governo local com respeito aos programas públicos de esporte será garantir que aquelas iniciativas sejam mantidas durante os anos, inclusive apos da Copa do Mundo e dos Jogos Olímpicos tenham acontecido na cidade.


Katy, love the program in Nairobi. I used to teach yoga to former drug-addicted women in a shelter home in the U.S., and it was a powerful experience. In Mumbai, we've introduced the kids at the shelter to yoga by bringing them to a well-known yoga center in the city--and it is the one activity they continually ask for. Similar to what you explain about the youth groups in Nairobi, the experience with yoga brings moments of peace among lives that experiences lots of ups and downs.

I'm surprised by how much the program has expanded and wonder how its able to sustain itself. Is it working off of donations from the U.S. to pay the teachers? It seems that a nominal charge might help to bring more sustainability and perhaps help to expand the program, opening it to even more communities. Or, could a sliding scale system be introduced so that more well-off yogis could pay a higher rate?

Carlin thanks for the question as it is indeed important. I shall try to answer the best I can but will also try to get in touch with Paige Elenson (who I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting) and see if she can give us more precise answers.
To the best of my knowledge the AFP was initially funded almost entirely through donations from the States. I believe they also have a volunteer program of sorts as every month there are different teachers who are running the sessions or teacher training workshops. Although the weekly outreach classes are free, every Saturday there is a very large class in which people contribute what they can (and given how varied the people that attend are, I imagine this can be anything between 50cents and 10dollars).
Recently however the AFP took over a large studio at Diamond Plaza, an Indian shopping centre in Nairobi's Parklands area. The studio runs daily yoga classes for the general public which cost something affordable for your average middle class Kenyan. As a result, I think it's fair to assume that the AFP is becoming increasingly self-sustainable and can only continue to grow.

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

Hey Katie,
Thanks for the reply. Our project is a social enterprise and we have very varied forms of income generating models. We are funded by both grants (Open Society, JOIS Foundation, Silver Foundation) and income generation and individual donations. Our teachers are all paired with mentors whom both coach the teachers monthly through Skype sessions, but also contribute $125 a month which supports that teachers monthly stipend to deliver outreach classes. Our Seva Safari trip is a 12 day service trip which is an immersion into active service (we get down and dirty) and self-inquiry about our yoga/seva practice. These trip both fund the service project we work on as well as our ongoing programing. Our Ambassador, or volunteer program, is another source of human and financial capacity. Lastly, we run a Social enterprise in Nairobi called the Shine Center - which is running as ay oga studio and income and job creating model! We of course do fundraisers and are very grateful for all contributions that create these incredible offerings in Kenya! Hope that helps!

This is great Paige, thank you so much for providing more info on how the AYP supports itself and provides income generating opportunities for its members. I sincerely hope it will continue to expand and become a model for other similar projects across the region and beyond.
People who wish to make a donation to AYP can do so on the website:

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

Katy, I also wanted to say I loved the idea of the yoga classes in Nairobi. I’m happy to learn that in the case of Nairobi there are other sports, besides football, that are promoted. Although in Rio many sports are practiced, let’s say that the vast majority of the attention is focused on football.

The fact that people in Nairobi can access yoga classes not only helps them to stay fit but to connect with their bodies and minds. Hope there would be more initiatives like this one!

Howaida, As in Mexico City, Football is been used as a tool for development; it is amazing that through this sport citizens can canalize their demands and protests to the government in a pacific way, and of course it helps to gather the community, foster social capital and why not to raise the culture of health prevention.
Carlin, sports is a magnific tool for the prevention of addiction and crime, in Mexico City there is an organisation in the Municipality of Iztapalapa which provides free classes of tae kwon do, box and kick boxing through Combat Schools (CENDECOM) in the community in order to help young people to leave drugs or criminal activities; their programme is sponsored by the government of the DF and is established in a locality with high levels of insecurity and criminality.

Howaida, welcome to our discussions! I think it is fascinating to learn how the football tournament was used as an excuse to protest, but also to promote public unity through a common interest. You describe very well how this match got such an enormous reaction, especially on the social networks. Could you tell us a bit more on what have been the latest reactions to this event? I’m just curious on how the local forces reacted to such a creative “protest”.

On the other hand, I would like to learn more about the public program Sports for Development 2012-2015. You mention that it is said to be successful due to the coordination between the central and the local bodies that promote this program. I was wondering if you know how many beneficiaries it is reaching just to have an idea of its dimension. In addition, I was wondering if you can share which special gender considerations the program must have in order to target its services to vulnerable youth and women. Looking forward to learn more!!!!

I would like to make a general comment on the role of sports in marginalised neighbourhoods. I think that in addition to the benefits that were listed in this week's introduction, sports can serve another less tangible but equally important purpose which is to create social capital by way of strengthening a sense of pride of place for members of the community.
Much in the same way that musicians and artists can help form a strong sense of identity in disadvantaged areas, the pride that comes with having a winning team and famous sportspeople who make it out of the slums through sports, should not be underestimated.

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

Hi everyone

I think sports is one of the best approaching to develop the community, because it has great values and brings a sense of enjoying life and building higher self-capacity. The yoga program in Nairobi is great, and also public "sports for development" in Rio. It's encouraging that everyone - including the low income communities - can do sports and have a great achievement on it.

Nanda, thanks for your valuable comment. Indeed as you mention, sports is a good strategy in order to have an approach with communities, in the way that they get involved with out a responsability but getting lot of advantages. Poverty must be approached as a far-reaching and multi-faceted issue that needs to be attacked at its root.
Here is a link to an organisation in Africa wich aims to tackle poverty trough Soccer, it may be a good example of what you mentioned.

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