A new project in South Sudan will use football as a tool to overcome ethnic divides and create peaceful development in a country torn apart by civil war.
Football has a universal ability to bring people together and create joy, passion, and involvement, not least among children and young people.
That is why UEFA Foundation for Children, Cross Cultures Project Association, the South Sudanese Football Association and NIRAS have launched the project Open Fun Football Schools – Playing for Water. The initiative will use football as a means to overcome ethnic divides, support development, and encourage social progress.
For more than five years, South Sudan has been plagued by civil war. Some 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict that has also caused one of the world’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis in recent years. Today, while there is relative calm in some parts of the country and a ceasefire is in place, the peace agreement has not been signed and the future remains uncertain.
According to UNHCR, some two million South Sudanese citizens are refugees in neighbouring countries while a similar number are internally displaced. The Open Fund Football Schools project targets children and youth who have been affected by years of conflict, especially those who have been unable to attend school or returned home after living as refugees.
“We are very proud that the UEFA Foundation for Children has chosen Cross Cultures Project Association and NIRAS as partners for this innovative project. We are happy that our competences and development experience in South Sudan can be applied in new and exciting ways that benefit South Sudanese youth and children,” says Troels Kolster, NIRAS’s project manager of the Water for Eastern Equatoria project.
The intention is to use football as a fun and entertaining means to contribute to conflict resolution and overcome ethnic divides on a community level in Torit and Juba in South Sudan. At the same time, the project will use the opportunity to reach especially the older participants, who will participate in courses that will contribute to improving health and environmental protection.
The project will also provide training in income-generating activities – such as soap making or similar things that young people can do to improve their livelihoods and thereby create a positive social impact in the local communities.
A select group of youth leaders who have already shown some potential will be offered special training and then be responsible for training some further 1,600 children using football as the main form of engagement with support from the project.
NIRAS’s role in the project will, among other things, consist of helping to improve the opportunities for employment and setting up micro or small businesses for young people through mentoring within water and sanitation facility management, environment, agro forestry, agriculture and horticulture, for example planting and managing crops for income generation.
Some young participants in the UEFA project will become members of the local water committees in Torit, which have been established as part of the Water for Eastern Equatoria project and play a vital role in securing the local water supply. These water committees, for example, require borehole or water-pump maintenance providers.
NIRAS is implementing the water project on behalf of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Sudan. In addition to addressing safe water, sanitation and hygiene, the water project also has a youth activation element.
“It is the first time NIRAS has been involved in this sort of project, which is based on a strong partnership with the Danish NGO Cross Cultures Project Association. It applies an innovative approach where the power of football is used to mobilise youth and provide them with an opportunity to develop income-generating activities, such as poultry farming, and to take a responsible role in their communities. Those are important steps in providing a future for the youth in South Sudan rather than migrating. We are confident we will deliver a successful project and obtain good results. At the same time we hope to be able to draw on our experiences with this project in other contexts,” says Troels Kolster.
Update: the South Sudan Football Association has featured this project on their website.
Cross Cultures has carried out The Open Fun Football Schools programme in post-conflict areas since 1998 in order to facilitate youth inclusion and active citizenship.
The programme is promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, gender equality, social integration and incorporation of culture's contribution to sustainable development
Cross Cultures has so far reached 950,000 children, 52,000 parents, and 79,000 local volunteers in 21 post-conflict situations across the world.
UEFA Foundation for Children was established in 2014 with the aim to support children in need all over the world through sporting activities and different sorts of education and training activities.
• 16 young people trained to become instructors and football ambassadors.
• Recruitment of 96 voluntary coaches and 96 voluntary assistant coaches
• 1,600 children aged between 6 and 12 (minimum of 50% girls participating) will participate in the five-day Open Fun Football Schools courses
• 16 young football ambassadors will be trained in water point management.
• 16 young football ambassadors and 194 voluntary coaches will be trained in health and hygiene
• 16 young instructors will be trained in business management, vocational and livelihood skills, including the facilitation of potential funding opportunities.