On the International Day of Sports for Development, we would like to recognize that sports play an essential role in improving the quality of life of millions of children in Latin America and the Caribbean. Studies have proven that sports can serve as an effective tool to motivate and train young people. In 2003, the United Nations Task Force on Sports for Development and Peace concluded that “sport offers a cost-effective tool to meet many development and peace challenges, and help achieve the MDGs [the UN’s Millennium Development Goals].”
“Light Up Your Life” is a new initiative that we are launching in Peru this month in partnership with Philips that uses sustainable energy to provide lighting for community spaces like soccer fields and amphitheaters. The initiative employs sustainable energy and energy efficient lighting solutions to create spaces where children and their families can play sports and attend other community events after dark.
The inauguration of the first sports fields for “Light Up Your Life” will kick off on April 19th in Cuzco, Peru and on April 25th in Lima, Peru with soccer clinics held by KNVB World Coaches and will included the participation of local circus troops and other performers such as La Gran Marcha Muñecones, Bigote de Gato, Puckllay, and La Tarumba. This celebration is the first of many given that Philips and the IDB will donate and install state-of-the-art LED lighting and solar powered LED lighting solutions in 20 community cight centers, reaching both grid and off-grid communities in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru.
This program, in addition to promoting sports for development, addresses the inequality of access to electricity in Latin America and the Caribbean which affects development opportunities, sustainable poverty reduction, and greater social inclusion. In order to decrease those inequalities, simple innovations like the “Light Up Your Life” program can have a big impact on communities by providing a safe environment for people to carry out their activities at night and continue to be productive even when night falls. In addition, “Light Up Your Life” promotes the goals of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative to increase both energy efficiency and renewable energy use in the region.
Innovative programs like “Light Up Your Life,” in addition to opening up safe community spaces for youth to play sports, can also empower women, individuals with disabilities, and others, boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence, and helping them integrate more fully into society and the economy. The overarching impact of “Light Up Your Life” and other programs that use sports for social and economic development goes beyond transforming the individual participants and reaches the communities where these young people live and work.