A virtual sports exchange program bring Lebanese and American youth together to promote social cohesion and foster civic engagement.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” — Nelson Mandela
The new 24-month Peace through Sport program is funded by the American Embassy of Beirut and is in partnership with the Marshall Legacy Institute. Anera is implementing the program with two of our local partners in southern Lebanon — the Imam Sadr Foundation and Al Mouwasat Association — where we also oversee the implementation of vocational and life skills courses for marginalized youth.
Six-hundred youth from the United States and Lebanon are going through the eight-week program. These young people are learning about civic participation, teamwork, and healthy living, and connect with one another to exchange experiences and ideas.
Anera’s Mohamed Kaddoura, south area manager, is overseeing the implementation of the program and working closely with our partners.
“This program is about collaboration and cultural exchange," he says. "We are using two curricula: Training Across Continents, provided by Anera, and Deep Diving, offered by Marshall Legacy in the United States.”
Lebanese and American participants are meeting virtually to discuss what they’ve learned in their separate sessions and exchange ideas on civic engagement and community projects and initiatives.
“At the end of each level of the program, youth are expected to implement an initiative. Today, for example, two groups from Tyre and Sidon are planning an open day for people with special needs, in the hopes of promoting inclusion."
Muhammad Al-Hajj is a life skills trainer hired by Anera for the program. He is thrilled about the initiative because he say that youth in Lebanon are in a dire need for such outside-of-the-box programs that will allow them to connect with youth in the United States.
“We've covered many aspects of life skills. We discussed cooperation, teamwork, creativity, and problem solving, all through the lens of sport.”
“We must learn about one another, connect and unite for the sake of our future on this planet.”
Mohammad views the connection between American and Lebanese youth to be the most valuable aspect of this program. The two countries face deeply rooted social issues which impact youth’s lives. Opening a communication channel creates great potential. He says,
“We live on the same planet. We’re a big family with diverse cultures and experiences. We must learn about one another, connect and unite for the sake of our future on this planet.”
Meet some of the program participants
Silvana is an 18 year old living in Saida. She loves the opportunity to reconnect with people offered by the program, especially after almost a year of lockdown.
“The most important thing that I gained from this program so far is a boost in my self esteem and my confidence. Working with a team really changes people.”
"Working with a team really changes people.”
Mariam is 19 years old, also from Saida. She is interested in social work and community development and joined this program to learn more about civic engagement and community service.
“The first four weeks were aimed at strengthening our self-confidence. We learned about solidarity and the value of cooperation. I liked communicating with the American group. It’s so interesting to learn about different cultures.”
"We learned about solidarity and the value of cooperation. I liked communicating with the American group. It’s so interesting to learn about different cultures.”
Maryam is a 19 year old studying social work. She joined the program to enhance her communication skills and to learn about innovative social interventions and designing social action projects.
“I think this program will boost my professional skills, like my ability to work in a group with people from different backgrounds and viewpoints.”
“I think this program will [help me learn] to work in a group with people from different backgrounds and viewpoints.”
Ibrahim is a first year university student studying IT. He’s an energetic extrovert who is eager to connect with people and lead.
“I’m here because I’m always working on becoming a better version of me! Whether it’s my body through sports, or my social skills through volunteering, I’m proud of myself and I want to do more!”
Ibrahim hopes that opportunities like this program can be more frequent and common.
Dima is a 19 year old who says she's specifically interested in connecting with American youth and exploring sports activities and ideas that could be duplicated in Lebanon.
“This program is an opportunity for us to learn about civic work and activism by forming partnerships with American students. Sports are an important part of the American schooling system and I want to learn more about that.”
"Sports are an important part of the American schooling system and I want to learn more about that.”
With all the daily obstacles and hurdles which make life in Lebanon seem harder every day, this program helps foster a sense of hope and connection among Lebanese youth. We look forward to seeing the fruits of this program and have no doubt that the participants will make the best out of their newly gained insight and skills.