Most Valuable Peacemakers In Abuja, Nigeria awarded for tackling local challenges – Football For Peace

Most Valuable Peacemakers In Abuja, Nigeria awarded for tackling local challenges

Football for Peace (FfP) delivered its Young Peace Leaders program in partnership with DT Institute, Spirit of America, The US Department of State, Rotary Club of Asokoro 9125, and Rotary District 7010 Canada. The programme focused on facilitating integration, understanding local challenges and educating on mental wellbeing through to building sustainable practices for communities, which will be led by the newly appointed Young Peace Leaders.

The challenges Nigeria faces are becoming more complex with multiple issues needing to be tackled simultaneously. This includes security threats as well as the aftermath of a health pandemic. Young people require great resilience to stay on positive pathways.

The program unified a diverse group of fifty youth participants both male and female, from Abuja, Kaduna and Kogi states – spanning across 36 different regions. The program focused on how football can be used as a tool to build resilience to a range of social harms; strengthening youth safeguarding; and creating positive pathways from conflict and violence. Tutors and coaches provided training and the tools to enable the young participants to effectively use football to tackle local challenges through their own football based programs, which will be supported by Football for Peace and program partners.

Rotary Peace Fellow Alumnus and local project lead Ignatius Emeka Onyekwere said

The successful implementation of the Football for Peace program in Nigeria is a landmark achievement to all the partners who supported this project in their different ways and capacities. Even though this was a pilot project meant to test the waters on how a Football for Peace program could serve as a tool for building peace and countering violence extremism among youths in Nigeria, we saw a great impact and engagement from the participants. We look forward to the continued engagement with Football for Peace and project partners to continue to support young people in Nigeria.

The week long activities nurtured the fifty school-age teens to become Young Peace Leaders, which included a series of educational workshops and practical football training in Abuja, Nigeria. The program utilised football and the unique ability in offering the young participants skills that can be used both on and off the pitch, including ‘soft’ transferable skills such as team building and communication skills.

Helping them to make the grade was Football for Peace Technical Ambassador and former Premier League footballer Michael Chopra who played in recent years for Newcastle United and Cardiff City FC.

We consider football to have a unique ability to reach far beyond ethnic, religious, or social differences and Football for Peace hopes to continue to make a lot of positive impact across Nigeria. It was a real pleasure for me to connect and work with the young people on this program and I was so pleased with their ability to transfer what they have learnt through the program and provide pro active ideas of how they aim to use the sport I love to make a positive impact in their own communities.”
– Michael Chopra

Young participants were put through their paces by experienced workshop tutors and football coaches. The young participants were shown how football programs can be devised to create positive pathways and address challenges close to them. The program also included dialogue-based activities, which gave the young participants an opportunity to share some of the local challenges they are faced with, growing up as a young person in Nigeria.

Many of the young people shared their hope to strive for a more unified and peaceful country amongst the acts of violence and religious conflicts. They shared a belief that football could help make difference.

John DeBlasio, Chairman of DT Institute, said “Sport brings youth together and empowers them to build teams which have a positive impact on their communities. With every teammate that build bonds through sports you find parents and grandparents and communities that see the world through their lens as teammates.  Youth sports is a new and important part of our conflict and stability programming and we look forward to supporting more initiatives like Young Peace Leaders in Nigeria in collaboration with other like-minded donors around the world.

Another key aim of this project was to encourage young people back onto football fields following long periods of a lack of physical activity due to the pandemic. This also gave coaches an opportunity to highlight the transferable skills football can give to young people in working together and engaging wider community members though the medium of football. The 50 young participants took part in practical football training sessions and competitive play, which displayed great skills and team spirit.

The final day of the program saw over two hundred local community members come together for the graduation ceremony of the newly appointed Young Peace Leaders. The certification ceremony was a moment to acknowledge and recognise the hard work and commitment the young participants made through the program. The graduation ceremony was also attended by representatives from the US Embassy in Abuja who supported in awarding the Young Peace Leaders their certificates at the event, Rob Garbor from the US Embassy said

Making that experience possible for 50 young Nigerians, we applaud the tremendous effort of all organizations involved: Football for Peace, DT Institute, Spirit of America, and the Rotary Club in Asokoro. Thank you, and we hope to work with you in the future to support similar endeavours

Having graduated as Young Peace Leaders, the fifty teenagers will now be empowered to create their own football-based programs in their communities – with the on going support of Football for Peace and its partners. They join part of the growing global cohort of Young Peace Leaders globally making a positive impact to their community unlocking the power of football.

Director of CVE at the US Department of State Irfan Saeed said

Great thanks to Football for Peace, DT Institute, the Rotary Foundation, and Spirit of America for their amazing partnership. It’s the spirit of teamwork and tolerance that sports can teach the next generation! Thank you Nigeria

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