Olympic Fever: Youth Empowerment through Sport

by Narelle Webber on Friday, 10 August 2012

How awesome are the Olympics?!  I have never watched so much television in years.  Every day there are countless stories of struggles, achievements and conquests. I love the Olympics and the positive energy it generates.  I especially love hearing about stories of nations and athletes that really do it tough and beat incredible odds just to be part of it.

Thinking about the Olympics and what it means to others has made me think about the power of sport and its impact around the globe particularly in terms of building bridges between and also within countries.  How amazing is it to read about the Saudi Arabian women, competing in an Olympics for the first time?  With great controversy, their participation raises many issues pertaining to gender equality and other human rights. Whether or not the women have the skills to compete at Olympic level is not the biggest issue, but rather whether women from all countries should have equal opportunity to participate.  The Olympics certainly provided a global platform for raising this issue to the largest audience possible.

Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar gets a standing ovation at the Olympic Stadium

Athletes are role models that may serve to inspire others to reach their potential. Volunteers are role models, too.  We see this all the time during ISV programs where volunteers interact with children; kids look up to our volunteers and take in their behaviors and attitudes. Volunteering with children is therefore not something to be taken lightly.

ISV facilitating sporting activities through community development in South Africa © used with permission by ISV SA

While our volunteers do play games with children and sometimes facilitate sporting activities with them, it’s never really been the primary focus in any of our community development projects.

However next year (and it’s not just that we’re caught up in Olympic fever) we’ve decided to carefully select and support some projects where the goal is to empower youth through sport.

Many underprivileged communities do not have access to sporting equipment or to learning new skills.  The opportunity to participate and excel in sport is something that improves one’s social well-being, health and quality of life, and thus ticks boxes in terms of meeting sustainable development objectives.

We have our eye on some sports-focused volunteer projects, particularly in South Africa as well as the Dominican Republic. We’ll be looking for volunteers with specific skills and interests in sport to help us with our goals. Stay tuned!



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