Andre Wilson, founder and executive director of Youth for Development Network, says there is value in using sports as a developmental tool to empower and create peace for persons adversely affected by violence.
Wilson, who was addressing the VPA’s Steering Committee Meeting in April, said that research shows that there are several benefits of sports. These include improving social skills, peer and friendship groups, improving physical and mental wellbeing.
He recommended that to see the full benefits of sports, it was important to focus on linking activities with development outcomes through specific strategies and objectives, designing programmes that include an adequate balance of sport and non-sport activities; facilitate multisectoral collaborations and tie sports into existing social programmes.
He revealed that he has been successful with his own Youth for Development Network, which he founded in 2011. The organisation collaborates with local and international partners, to develop and implement a training model that appeals and builds on their assets.
Wilson said this model combines intentional sport-based youth development, creative empowerment and arts-based practices into transformational life and market-driven job skills. He said whenever jobs are limited, the model provides a step-by-step approach for young people to launch and or scale their own businesses.
Emerging from the concept, he said that his organisation has developed the Youth (U’tz) Champions, which is a direct result of young people gained while working directly with youth and stakeholders, to provide a solid evidence-based youth intervention framework, created to empower young people to prepare for work, entrepreneurship and adulthood.
“We find that every young person needs a champion. We have been working with them to find the champion within themselves. The initiative looks at addressing the psychological and emotional wellbeing of those who often experience trauma and who reside in communities affected by crime and violence. We find that there are so many young men who cannot move into the programme because there is so much to unpack,” he explained.
He said the programme has seen success with more than 5,000 at-risk-youth across Jamaica completing the programme with 65 per cent of whom learn to control their anger, peacefully resolve conflicts, find a job, return to school or start a business within a year.