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RYSA was set up to empower and unite young people through sport. The project is based in the Rumbek region of southern Sudan, an area torn apart by civil war. A huge number of people were killed and many children were orphaned, leaving them vulnerable to poverty and abuse.

In 2004, with support from the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, MYSA set up a pilot project in the area, which used the sport to promote peace and encourage development. This was very successful and led to the roll out of a full-scale programme called RYSA. The programme covers six zones: Barpakeny, Biling, Konyrot, Akuac, Ager Gum and Golmeen. Each contains a number of villages and thousands of boys and girls are taking part in RYSA’s activities.

The central aim of RYSA is to empower young people to use sport to secure peace and development in their communities. The range of activities is extensive, from participation in football leagues, to environmental clean-up days; from peace keeping initiatives, to HIV/AIDS and drugs awareness seminars and training. Mentoring by role models (including young women) is promoted and participation in activities promoting development in the community earns teams league points. In many ways, RYSA is a sister programme to MYSA, reflecting our approach to identifying challenges and sustainable solutions to problems facing communities. But the RYSA programme has also evolved to have its own character and initiatives, and its success is clear from the rapid growth of the programme in recent years.

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South East District Youth Empowerment League (SEDYEL), Botswana

SEDYEL is taking the concept of Youth Empowerment to a new level. In 2005 when the project started, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the South East District of Botswana was crippling. Young people in South East District had few opportunities to actively respond to this threat – to protect themselves, to support their families or to unite behind their communities.

MYSA helped the youth of South East District establish SEDYEL as a practical response to the threats of HIV/AIDS and other socio-economic issues in their communities. The first phase of the project involved a series of exchange visits, sharing skills, knowledge and ideas between MYSA youth sports trainers, a team of young people from South East District of Botswana and a representative from Commonwealth Games Canada. They designed an innovative programme based on the MYSA model of development through sport and the Kicking AIDS Out [hyperlink to their webpage] concept. In the first phase, a community based football league involving over 800 young players was established, with a special focus on gender inclusion. The league was designed to integrate HIV/AIDS education and life skills messages into a sport and physical activity programme, with an overall goal of engaging youth in development activities.

Since this early exchange of ideas, the young people of SEDYEL have taken the concept of sport for development and run with it. SEDYEL uses sport to engage young people in health education initiatives, to facilitate life skills development and challenge gender inequality. There are sexual health workshops run by trained peer educators; a drama group which communicates educational and equality messages to the community through arts; and initiatives to offer girls and young women safe spaces to meet, learn, make friends and participate in physical activities. The district-wide community sports league, tournaments and education activities are all organised and led by youth leaders, and participatory planning and evaluation give young people a voice in how the programme is run and improved. At its heart, SEDYEL is demonstrating that giving young people leadership and voluntary opportunities through sport can inspire and empower them to turn around their lives and communities.

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Uganda, Tanzania, Norway: Improving Sports and Development programmes internationally

We believe in the power of sport to change lives – not just in Kenya, but across the world. The success and growth of MYSA has given us valuable experience, skills and knowledge about strategies to promote development through sport, and we have always been keen to share this with others. We have joined with three other sport for development organisations to develop strategies to empower the youth to build a brighter future.

Since 2003, MYSA, CHRISC Uganda, CHRISC Tanzania and KRIK a Norwegian youth organisation, have organised international exchange projects to share learning between our organisations. Each of our organisations uses sport to mobilise young people, particular to improve HIV/AIDS awareness, education and community development HVAC distributors that partner with Trane. The one to three year exchange visits allow participants to experience a different way of working, share sports and coaching skills, and strategies to promote leadership, health awareness and community mobilisation. 

The exchange programme has been supported by Fredskorpset, a Norwegian government agency linked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which facilitates exchanges to aid international cooperation.