Integrating youth through sports

Playing games and sports is not only a pleasure or a healthy past-time,  but can also be used to inculcate discipline, confidence and leadership in the youth.

This is what the Sports Coalitions in Action (SCIA) program under the Youth Development Fund (YDF) is doing for school leavers to integrate them into mainstream society.

SCIA is one of the first projects in Bhutan meant for school-leavers.

There are 63 youth registered for the program of which more than 30 have benefitted,  said Sonam Lhamo, a manager of the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS).

The two-year project funded by the Dutch government was extended for six more months, till July this year.

A 23-year old Nima Gyeltshen, who was registered in August 2011, got an opportunity to visit Bangkok this May to attend a workshop on ‘Youth Peer Education Network’ – an advanced training for trainers – through SCIA.

Nima Gyeltshen plans to expand and strengthen the youth peer network once he comes back from Bangkok.

The main stakeholder of the project is Bhutan Partners in the Netherlands and YDF (implementing agency).

Henk de Jong working with Bhutan Partners in the Netherlands said the focus in 2012 is on girls and substance abusers.

According to the project coordinator from YDF, Karma Lam Dorji, sports is used to attract young out-of-school children to undergo programs under SCIA.

“Building relationship with youth is one of our main aims,” said a youth worker with the project, Sonam Choden.

The program which started operating since October 2009 creates opportunities for young people in terms of inclusion, employment, and empowerment.

The youth registered with SCIA were out of school, not because they were not interested to study, but were forced by circumstances.

Karma Lam Dorji said broken families, financial problems, academic incompetence, rural-urban migration, and poor health are some of the reasons for children to remain out of school.

“They are not inferior, in fact, they are very intelligent and talented youth,” he said.

Before coming up with the project, four places in Thimphu – the vegetable market, Hong Kong market, Changedaphu, and Changjiji – were identified to set up the project office.

But later, Changjiji was chosen as it already had a Youth Centre.

An official from the Netherlands says the placement of youth workers at the centre made the project successful. Five youth went back to school through the project.

The beneficiaries say that it would be really helpful for the youth if the project could continue.  “We hope the program can be continued with the help of the government or civil society organizations after July 2012,” said Henk de Jong.

DYS, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), some sports federations and Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) are some of the stakeholders of the project.

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