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Sport and physical activity’s meaningful contribution to humanitarian relief: Integration of Ukrainian Refugee Children Through Sport (IRTS Ukraine)

By Katerina Salta, ISCA

“The Ukrainian humanitarian crisis has challenged us to react in accordance with the needs of refugee families. That is why we must join forces through physical activity and sports in order to facilitate the social integration of Ukrainian children. Sport is a universal language that will help us overcome the problems caused by the armed conflict in the region,” says Mihai Androhovici from the Association Sport for All Suceava, Romania, who knows from first-hand experience how local sports organisations can respond effectively and meaningfully to some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Important lessons learned from his work and project leader V4Sport Foundation in Poland will be captured by the new Integration of Ukrainian Refugee Children Through Sport project (IRTS Ukraine).

IRTS Ukraine is co-funded by Erasmus+ and will support the integration of Ukrainian refugee children through sport by collecting and developing scalable, targeted, hands-on resources, piloting testing them in Poland and Romania, and widening the impact through international networks in sport organisations across Europe to extend the results and benefit Ukrainian children across the continent.

The project partners, V4Sport Foundation, Suceava Sport for All, Romania, International Sport and Culture Association, Terre des Hommes Romania, University of Cassino and Sothern Lazio Italy, Laureus Sport for Good, have joined forces to embark on this 2-year project (2023-2024), with its kick-off meeting taking place in March. 

Together we will collect best practices and develop materials to assist with integration efforts for Ukrainian refugee children through sport, with a focus on sharing inspiration with schools and sports clubs. In Romania and Poland, we plan to pilot activities and the materials with specific focus on peer-learning programmes, and evaluation and refinement of the materials. The project will deliver three webinars for the Integration of Refugees Through Sport network and build capacity in more organisations through seminars and workshops during the 2023 MOVE Congress.

The project partners met in Wroclaw (above) at the end of March to work on the project’s action plan. They explained why this initiative is so important in the overall response to this crisis:

“Although there are over 6000 languages spoken worldwide, every child understands body language. We need to use the power of sport to bring children together and to promote greater integration and understanding.” Jakub Kalinowski, V4Sport, Poland

“Quoting Nelson Mandela, Laureus Sport for Good deeply believes that ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand’. We believe in sport as a powerful tool to build bridges, to heal and improve physical and mental health, and to boost learning.” Elena Marin Yanez, Laureus Sport for Good

“Sport plays a huge role in bringing communities together. The grassroots sport community in Poland and Romania has a tremendous record when it comes to supporting the need of Ukrainian refugees. But we recognise that there’s still a need to build the capacities of grassroots sport organisations to support refugees with sport and physical activity, which give comfort and relief. We know that positive experiences can turn into changes in attitudes and a better future. ISCA is proud to be a partner in this project and to create more opportunities for Ukrainian refugees and for organisations that provide activities for them.” Saska Benedicic Tomat, ISCA Head of projects.

Key project facts:
Title: Integration of Ukrainian Refugee Children Through Sport  
Project period: January 2023-December 2024
Co-funded by: Erasmus+ Sport Cooperation Partnerships
Grant amount: €400,000
Project lead: V4Sport Foundation, Poland
Partners: ISCA, Suceava Sport for All (Romania), Terre des Hommes (Romania), University of Cassino and Southern Lazio (Italy), Laureus Sport for Good

Posted on 05/05/2023 by Katerina Salta, ISCA


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