By Fabian Koss
Post disponible en español
Recently I had a Skype conversation with Alejandra Villafuerte, in preparation for our Jan. 31 Sports for Development Conference. She runs Save the Children International in La Paz, Bolivia.
She told me the program is “saving numerous girls that were headed to joining violent gangs, and giving them a new outlook, and more importantly the chance for them to join a different type of team.”
“This project is transformational,” she said, and she was eager to present the new findings and results in Washington.
Save the Children International is one of many programs that use sports to help prevent crime in some of world’s most violent regions. Sharing best practices to ensure these programs are effective is one of the main themes of the Jan. 31 conference, which we are organizing together with the Council of the Americas.
Two examples are worth noting.
MIFALOT, based in Tel Aviv, uses soccer to foster a culture of peace and coexistence among Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. Opposing sides get an opportunity to play, interact and work together as a team. MIFALOT has grown to over 300 programs catering to more than 20,000 children in the Middle East. They are embarking on international initiatives in Cameroon, Rwanda, Angola, Benin, India, and Haiti. Israeli and Palestinian youths played a soccer game to packed stadium in Los Angeles before a Real Madrid–LA Galaxy friendly. MIFALOT is in discussion with Futbol Con Corazon, a successful sports for development program in Barranquilla, to see how they can take this model to cities in Colombia.
Another example is the IDB’s A Ganar program, which was used in Ciudad Juárez, among other violent-prone areas. Nearly 9,000 youths have participated. In Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay more than 70% of the graduated participants obtained a job, returned to school or started their own business within one year. An impact evaluation study for this program conducted in partnership with the Ross School
of Business at the University of Michigan, showed that for every $1 spent on these activities, the social investment return (in additional wage earnings, more time spent in school, etc.) is $ 1.49.
There is still so much to learn, but one thing for certain is that there is a growing appetite from the public, private, and civil society sectors to learn more, and explore how their future programs can incorporate sports for development components in their youth violence prevention initiatives.
If by chance you happen to be in DC on January 31st, please look into attending the Sports for Development Conference.
Fabian Koss is a Senior Specialist working on Sports for Development Programs at the Inter-American Development Bank´s youth program.