“You wouldn’t believe how many people can’t see the correlation between sports and peace,” Sarah Iortsor (YES 2012-2013, hosted by YFU, in Lexington Park, MD) said.
As a participant at the YES Sports for Development and Peace (YESDP) workshop earlier this year, Sarah joined 26 other YES alumni to learn about how sports can be used strategically for community building. The YESDP participants were charged with creating sports development projects in their home communities using skills they learned from the workshop, and Sarah got straight to work when she returned to Nigeria. Here’s what she had to say about the experience:
Initially, my project was going to be for the disabled, but for a number of reasons, I had to push that project back for now. In light of recent events in my community, I wondered what I could do that would help attribute peace with sports.
Currently, Nigeria is plagued with violence and mass killings. Different tribes have attacked one another, resulting in the loss of innocent lives. My tribe, the Tiv, has been on the receiving end of these acts and has experienced a great number of killings. It escalated to a point where the members of the nearby Fulani tribe did not want to be seen with Tiv people. A number of my family members have also been affected by the conflicts. I remember my cousins being so mad they wanted nothing to do with the Fulanis, except to kill them all. This is a very sad but real truth within my community.
A friend and I decided we had had enough of the violence, so we organized a soccer match that would include teams from different tribes. We invited people from Tiv, Fulani, Hausa and Igbo tribes. It didn’t matter who they were or where they came from; we wanted to show that regardless of their background, we could exist in peace with one another. We wanted to show we wouldn’t let hate or tribalism conquer, and what better way to do that than through sports?
The project was a success, as we had a number of people come together to play in the match. One of the elders in the community even played, and he scored a winning goal for his team. I still hope to carry out my project for the disabled. The way this first project turned out, I can’t wait to see how the next project will go, and I especially can’t wait to share more about it.