PPI’s Sports and Peace Innovation Network (SPIN) shares PPI’s institutional knowledge with others seeking to harness the power of sport for leadership development and conflict transformation. Thanks to institutional partners like adidas and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, PPI – SPIN has been able to support organizations in 15 countries, spread over five continents, from inner-city Chicago to Sana’a, Yemen.
Last month, PPI – SPIN held simultaneous training sessions in Ethiopia and Bosnia led by four new SPIN trainers comprised of local staff, International Fellows and former trainees. Each brought their own unique experiences and perspectives to the SPIN initiatives.
Million Biyaylgne was first introduced to PPI as a participant in 2012, during a SPIN project with Worldwide Orphans, which launched a new soccer league for orphans and vulnerable children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For the current project, Million paired up with PPI – South Africa International Fellow, Bryan Franklin (from Denver, Colorado), to work with Save the Children International in refugee camps in the Gambella region of Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, there are an estimated 278,000 South Sudanese Refugees, 90% of whom have arrived in the last two years. In refugee camps, attention is focused on meeting basic needs — food, water, and shelter – with few, if any, opportunities for education or extracurricular activities which increases idle time that is directly linked to conflict. As Million puts it, “Conflict with other tribes will damage so many of the children and their communities. That is why it is very important to engage these children in sport activities so that they may grow up without conflict and go to school.”
For Bryan, the experience led to a healthy dose of self-reflection:
“Stuck outside my comfort zone with no running water, internet or air conditioning, I caught myself complaining. But this is the reality for a majority of the planet – who was I to complain as I prepared to go learn from individuals who had been forced to leave their country and are living out of tents. It’s difficult to put into words, but I know this has changed my outlook on life forever.
With numbers as large as 60 million, it’s easy to forget that each one of them is a person with a story. I was inspired by the hope endured by those we met during our short time. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be forced to leave everything I know, with no idea what the future holds. One thing I’ll certainly remember is the fact that more than anything, most of these people just wish they could go home.”