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Not just a game: the power of sports

You’ve heard the expression “it’s just a game” used to manage the expectations of competition, but in countries around the world a sporting event can represent much more than a game. Fun and light-hearted as some matches may be, they can have life-altering impact. As a platform for important issues sports are bringing awareness, sparking powerful transformations and uniting people from all walks of life.

Take a look at some global examples of Plan International harnessing the power of sports to empower communities and positively change mindsets:

Girls and boys play volleyball outside their school building.

Community Sponsorship helped foster learning and fun both inside and outside the classroom in Jimma, Ethiopia. Sports – like the volleyball being played here – not only exercise the body and energize the mind to promote better mental and physical health, they also provide an opportunity to build new social skills and encourage inclusive mindsets.

Children participate in a relay race.

Thanks to Health Project Sponsorship, over 320 children and 350 adults took part in a hygiene-themed relay race in Myanmar: a fun way to promote sanitation practices, like handwashing, for improved health! The innovative recreation and awareness event coincided with Global Handwashing Day and was such a success that plans are underway to make this an annual event that will reach even more community members.

Split screen: Two girls link arms and kick a soccer ball and a team waves their arms and poses.

In Ecuador (above left), nearly 6,000 children will benefit from a project where girls and boys team up to play soccer together and kick out gender inequality! In Honduras (above right), girls (aged 7 to 18) raised their hands to participate in a Plan International-supported soccer event and program in support of girls’ rights and the development of important life skills.

Youth participate in a swim race in Bangladesh.

Swimming is one sport that truly can save lives. In flood prone areas of Bangladesh, drowning is a serious risk. That’s why Plan International provided swimming lessons to over 500 boys and girls aged 4 to 10 and organized community-wide drowning prevention activities. Here, community members gather to cheer on all racers for their impressive display of potentially lifesaving skill!

5 girls in uniform practice their karate.

In Hatibandha, Bangladesh girls are feeling strong and empowered thanks to karate training they received through Plan International’s support. Now they have invaluable tools for self-defence, giving them greater confidence in themselves and helping motivate them to pursue challenging new goals.

5 girls in uniform practice their karate.

To promote healing and bring communities together following conflict in Timbuktu, Mali, Plan International helped organize a ‘Cup of Peace and Reconciliation’ soccer tournament involving 8 teams from various districts. Additionally, we established more than 20 child-friendly spaces, which offered psychosocial support – often through sport and games.

Bikers of all ages and genders participate in a Because I am a Girl race in El Salvador.

Plan International El Salvador organized a family bike ride to support girls’ education and promote the Because I am a Girl initiative. Around 150 adults and children participated, and the event ended on a colourful note when volunteers threw coloured powders to celebrate riders passing the finish line.

Leveling the playing field

Whether tackling conflict resolution, psychosocial support or gender inequality, sports have the power to heal, uplift and change lives. Sports help improve children’s mental, physical and emotional health and increase their self-confidence, to inspire strong, passionate leaders of tomorrow. Sports also encourage different people to work together, promoting team building, collaboration and mutual respect. Combined, these factors help create strong, peaceful, innovative and resilient communities, ensuring a better world for everyone.

So, can sports really help change the world? We sure think so!

Helping youth score every goal

By purchasing the Power of play Gift of Hope you'll give children the chance to truly be children by providing sports equipment such as soccer balls and skipping ropes, and introducing sports, music and theatre clubs in schools. Help children learn what they are capable of.

Additionally, our partners will match your gift 5 times over – empowering even more young people to transform their communities and future.