Supporting social inclusion through sporting activities in Egypt
Since 2013, Egypt is hosting a large number of refugees from Syria, many of them children. Uprooted from their homes, the socio-economic situation of Syrian refugees in Egypt is extremely vulnerable. Children are often the most vulnerable and many of them end up being exploited as labourers or in child marriage.
Egypt is also a country from which and through which people migrate to Europe. At the end of 2017, there were 3,700 unaccompanied and separated children registered in Egypt, 2,780 of whom were newly registered in 2017 alone. The majority of these children come from Eritrea. Other countries from which these children originate include Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia and South Sudan.
Many Egyptian children also live on the margins of society with limited access to rights and services. They can sometimes see migration as the only viable option for their future. Considering this context and Egypt being in a turbulent region, there is a risk of tensions. It is therefore crucial to support ongoing efforts to foster tolerance, understanding and social inclusion as well as improved access to rights and services for everyone living in Egypt, especially children.
Leisure activities are not only a child’s right, but also important for a child’s development. Since many children love sport, Terre des Hommes (Foundation) is investing in sporting activities for girls and boys in Egypt, which bring together Egyptian children with refugee and other migrant children living in Egypt. Sport helps children to make friends, make connections and to communicate. Sport quickly and effortlessly becomes a way in which children play together and socialise and is therefore a great tool for social cohesion.
Sports coaches and Terre des Hommes’ social workers develop sports programmes which help children develop life skills through the sporting activities.
As one of the coaches explains: "We use the activities to show the children that they can get back on their feet and still make something of the situation. Some children suffer the consequences of war or the loss of a family member. Some no longer remember their homes, but still have trouble adjusting to their new culture. The first time they take part in the activities, they are shy. It’s the coaches’ goal to give them self-confidence. I give additional attention and support to those who are less skilled. It helps them do better. My motto is ‘You all can do it!’"
Another coach gives the example of how, through sport, he was able to discuss the consequences of violence and aggressive behaviour with children:
“During play, sometimes the children express their frustration with aggressive behaviour. On one occasion, we discussed together whether this kind of behaviour was helpful or not. We also drafted together a code of conduct, which we stuck on the wall. After a few weeks, I took the sheet down. They now stick to the rules themselves.”
This is part of the Terre des Hommes community approach to child protection in the region. In fact, the coaches are all members of the community: professional sportspeople, parents, teachers, and young people themselves, who are interested and get support to enhance their technical and leadership skills.
In the space of one year, 1,500 children and young people and 70 community members have participated in and contributed to these activities which strengthen children’s life skills and promote social cohesion in their community.
Since I was 6, I started to play football in Tal Menin, my pretty city. I was clever in playing, the ball even became my best friend who went with me everywhere.
I didn’t lose it till it got lost during the war. I lost my father and my ball. We had to move to Egypt five years ago, leaving our home and our city.
I became lonely with my mother and my little brother without a team or a ball. I used to play anything that looked like a ball. I have dreamed of my ball, which I left behind in my city, in my destroyed school.
I heard about the football sport activity in the Abwab family centre supported by Terre des Hommes in a nearby stadium. I actually went to the centre and started to practice many activities, including football with other children from Syria and Egypt under the supervision of a facilitator who was a previous football player.
The facilitator helped me to recover my fitness, my technique, and my self-confidence. I became a member of the football team of Abwab centre. We then started to compete with other teams of the other family centres with other Syrian and Egyptians children. During one of the matches, somebody told me about SATUC world cup for orphans. I applied to be a player for Syria to participate in the world cup for orphans in 2017. After passing some tests, I was chosen as the best Syrian player in the required age category and represented my country in the Syrian team. We will go to Morocco to participate in the World Cup.