Sports fans, rejoice:Â Friday marks the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games!Â My family and I are definitely going to spend the nextÂ two weeks or so gathered around the TVâ€”and weâ€™re not even big sports fans. But thatâ€™s what makes the Olympics so special: theyâ€™re not just about athletic achievement. The games are an expression of global unity and a celebration of human endurance. I have to admit, I often get teary watching the Olympics, and Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m not the only one.
UNICEF knows all about the power and importance of sports, especially in a childâ€™s life,Â and uses sports in very targeted ways to improve the lives of children.
Getting kidsÂ involved with sportsÂ is a great way to reach children who are marginalized, like those living with HIV/AIDS, orphaned children, or former child soldiers.Â Recently UNICEF and the International Cricket Council joined forces to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.Â They have launched a Â campaign to spread HIV awareness, and are sponsoring local cricket teams where kids will learn how to protect themselves against HIV. Â This is just one example of how UNICEF uses sports to help children.
- Joining a team can be an alternative to drug and alcohol abuse, andÂ can teachÂ kids life skills to protect themselves against abuse or exploitation.
- Â Sports programs are also a great way to reach girls who are not enrolled in school, and can help them become re-integrated into their community.
- Participating in sports is especially empowering for children with disabilities, and can change attitudes toward the disabled within their community.
- Sports and recreation are also extremely important for children who have gone through the trauma of an emergency. When children are living in a refugee camp, playing sports can help them regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. If children have nothing to play with, UNICEF will supply them with soccer ballsÂ and recreation kits, so they canÂ be kidsÂ again.
In the spirit of the transformative power of sports, and to celebrate the Olympics, UNICEF and partners created the International Inspiration programâ€”an initiative to bring sports to 12 million children in 20 countries.Â Â Â
So while Kids all over the world may dream of becoming the nextÂ Usain Bolt (he’s the fastest man on Earth), itâ€™sÂ great to know they donâ€™t have to be Olympians to reap the benefits of sports.
You can give the gift ofÂ play by purchasing a soccer ball in honor of someone you love through ourÂ Inspired Gifts program.Â Your giftÂ will go directly to children who need it most.Â