Young football volunteers advance sports and MDGs


Since 2012, the “Young Football Volunteers: Sport and Volunteering for Millennium Development Goals” project has been dispelling this belief by discovering hundreds of enthusiastic and proactive rural boys and girls who are able to implement their own MDG-focused projects.

“I learned how to conduct a campaign in my native village and I have met very interesting people like UN volunteers and students from other schools,” says Andrey Uvarov, a pupil of Kutsurubskaya School, Mykolayiv oblast, who participated in the Youth Forum “Solving Youth Problems Together” jointly organized by the Young Football Volunteers project and Mykolayiv youth public organization Alter-Sport in Mykolayiv, April 2013. “I have learned that people from other villages face similar problems as us  . . . and I am happy to hear that there are ways to solve them. All this has really affected me, and in the future I'm going to try to hold a clean-up campaign in my village. "  

 Suleyman Baranov, trainer of Belogorskaya Youth Physical Training School in the AR Crimea agrees: “When the theory is presented through a game, children of any character and behaviour, including, difficult children, learn the material excellently,” he says.

”In my practice, I have seen a boy from a large rural family, who used to be addicted to many bad habits, not to mention poor performance at school, change his behaviour and become much more positive after joining our football club and Fair Play classes. Now he plays a key role in the team; moreover, he encourages his siblings to do the same.”

Such stories are common in the “Young Football Volunteers” project. They keep inspiring not only the project participants, but also the project team members, the five UN Volunteers, to work together to contribute to MDG achievement in Ukraine through football, informal education, and volunteering activity in rural communities.

Aimed at addressing young people’s vulnerability to the accelerating HIV epidemic and to social exclusion in Ukraine,   the “Young Football Volunteers” project has brought together resources from the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine (UNDP), and United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV) to support youth development.  Implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Football Federation of Ukraine, and The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and in the framework of the social programme “Youth of Ukraine” and the state project “Let’s Do it Together”, the project actively contributes towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with a particular effort in achieving Goal 6 (combat HIV, malaria and other diseases).

The project utilizes the unique synergy of strategies for youth development first applied in the oblasts of Kherson and Mykolaiv, and AR Crimea. It uses sport as an enabler to promote social cohesion, strengthen civil society and improve young people’s physical and social health in the project’s pilot districts. It aims to engage young people aged 12 to 20 (with a minimum of 40% girls) living in the rural areas of the oblasts of Kherson, Mykolayiv and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in active and effective participation in decisions regarding their health and the life of their community.

In order to achieve the project’s long-term goals, the YFV activities were structured to make the process of rural youth empowerment effective and sustainable. First, the project trained teachers and football coaches to utilize “youth development through football”/”Fair Play” methodology on HIV/AIDS, violence prevention, and gender-equality in school settings. Fifteen certified trainers from the pilot districts have already extended their knowledge to 340 school teachers in the regions through 28 cascading masterclasses. Then the trained school teachers conducted ”Fair Play” classes and local sport-for-development events, including football tournaments and awareness-raising campaigns for and in cooperation with local youth. These efforts have so far reached out to over 1284 young people in three regions. 

Following the “Fair Play” component, the project also educates the same coaches and youth leaders on project development and finances MDG-related projects, thus enhancing their capacity and networking skills with peers and colleagues. This educating component includes informal youth forums, trainings at schools and summer camps, conducting separate volunteer camps and ultimately financing best youth initiatives.

"Thanks to the Forum we learned of  new opportunities for young people’s development, as well as innovative approaches to work with children, such as presentations of youth organizations, workshops on writing action plans, including planning, implementation and financing," says Alexander Shevchuk, a teacher Snigirevskaya School, Mykolayiv region, the participant of the Youth Forum "Solving Youth Problems Together" in Mykolayiv.

Youth action plans, prepared by the young participants in the educational events aim to  encourage local institutions and leaders to involve young people in decision making and development policy. These plans present the specific problem-solving measures to be implemented in the young people’s home communities and provide them with an opportunity to participate in the YFV mini-grants competition.

In 2012, 11 projects were financed this way, including reconstruction of the sport playground in Kalanchak, Kherson oblast and “Youth Chooses Sport” project setting up a climbing frame in Shubilo village, Crimea. In addition the “Youth of Today for Future Generations” project created a village park based on the best park layout competition in Novohryhorivka, Mykolayiv oblast and HIV awareness projects such as “Football as an alternative to drugs, alcohol and HIV”, “Combating Human Indifference” were run successfully.

More MDG-related forums, trainings, football tournaments and mini projects are still to come within the YFV project in the following months bringing new opportunities to empower rural young people.

The YFV project highlights:

  • 340 coaches trained on Fair Play methodology
  • More than 1200 young people reached through Fair Play methodology
  • 650  volunteers mobilized through financing of  11 MDG youth initiatives

“It is a rewarding experience supporting initiatives of young people,” says Dmytro Say, Youth Development Specialist, UN Volunteer in Mykolayiv Oblast, Young Football Volunteers project. “We teach them to challenge the circumstances that prohibit them from realizing their dreams. This brings confidence to their actions. After one of the seminars youth in the community came together in order to do a park in their village. When other members of the community saw this they decided to help. What started with one single action became a river of hundreds deeds.”