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Going from good to great - witnessing the impact of YST International

by Jamie Piggins, Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Youth Sport Trust

Going from good to great - witnessing the impact of YST InternationalBeing based in Loughborough and not often able to witness our work first hand, it is always a privilege when I am able to personally view the impact that Youth Sport Trust International has on young people around the world. One of these rare and fortunate moments came in April, when I was asked to support the 2017 Power of Sport Youth Leadership Camp in Sweden.

This camp, delivered in partnership with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, brought together some of the best young sports leaders from around the world to engage in sessions and activities that would improve their skills and abilities. The message of the camp was all about going ‘from good to great’; the participants we had were already hugely talented, but it was our job to take them to the next level. We wanted to identify the challenges the leaders faced in their work and come up with practical resolutions that they could take away with them.

The issues facing our participants were varied and complicated, with gender inequality, conflict, prejudice and disillusionment common factors amongst their work. Some of the young leaders operate in the poorest parts of the world, but it is not the lack of equipment or funding that limits their delivery. Throughout the camp we saw examples of extraordinary resourcefulness amongst the participants, who said that often it was the attitudes and beliefs of people that were the biggest barriers to participation.

Our delivery looked to target these issues and teach the participants how they, as leaders, could become the agents of change needed in their communities. Each day we would dwell on a particular theme, and through the use of activities, discussion and tasks would define ways we could work as a group to combat it. It was always hugely fascinating to watch the group dynamic, as each of our participants came from such different backgrounds and had contrasting views on many issues, but all were able to put these aside and learn from each other. This overriding feeling of positivity and acceptance was so fulfilling to witness; there was a genuine desire from the participants to grow as a group and build bonds, no matter people’s cultures, backgrounds or belief. They all knew that the reason they were there was to grow as leaders, so that they may help young people all over the world.

The sessions themselves were highly enjoyable too, and I was able to challenge my personal capabilities when leading activities. Having not had that much experience in delivering I was apprehensive about meeting the high standards that our partners have come to expect from Youth Sport Trust International. Because of this I was so grateful to be able to learn from Viv, whose years of experience were the perfect resource to draw upon. I learnt so much simply from watching her deliver that I will be able to take away with me to future events.

As incredible as the sessions, activities and experiences were, they are not what I will remember most from the camp. What will really stick with me are the people I met during the camp, all of whom were humbling in their commitment to helping others. One such person was Homkant, a coach for Slum Soccer in India who was an absolute inspiration to all the other young leaders. On the penultimate day of the camp we held a conference, to which a number of sporting organisations based in Sweden were invited to meet the camp participants and learn how the camp had benefitted them. This conference also gave the chance for some participants to share their stories of how sport had had an impact on their lives. When Homkant took to the stage I wasn’t sure what to expect; throughout the camp he had been hard-working, engaged but never overly outspoken, which meant I hadn’t learnt a huge amount about him. His account of his experiences simply blew me away; at a relatively young age he ran away from home, looking to escape grim living conditions and better his life chances. After months of travelling and sleeping rough he found Slum Soccer, an organisation that provides children with a safe space to engage in football and learn valuable life skills. Homkant is now one of the main coaches for the organisation, and one only needs to hear the testimony of the children he coaches to see how big an impact he has made on their lives.

Every time I meet a Homkant, or any other of the young leaders at our camps, the importance of our work is reconfirmed. Whether we are engaging directly with children or improving the skills of young leaders, Youth Sport Trust International is having a positive impact on our world. The more we work, and the more people we can reach, the greater difference we can make. 

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