Focolare, Jesuit Entity Organize “Sports for Peace” Initiative for Teen Migrants in Kenya

A poster announcing the Sports4Peace, sports festivals targeting 12-18-year-olds from refugee and migrant communities in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and Kakuma, a town in Northwestern Kenya, Lodwar Catholic Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Focolare Movement and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) have partnered to organize “Sports4Peace”, sports festivals targeting 12-18-year-olds from refugee and migrant communities in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and Kakuma, a town in Northwestern Kenya, Lodwar Catholic Diocese, which has hosted a UNHCR Refugee Camp since 1992.

The “Sports4Peace” initiative is to involve six sports festivals between May and August, the first scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 27 at Mariapolis Piero in Juja, the developer of the initiative told ACI Africa about the event’s venue that is some 27 kilometers North of Nairobi city.

The focus of the sports “is on cooperative social competencies”, Dr. Alois Hechenberger said during the Thursday, May 25 interview. 

Dr. Hechenberger added that the highlighted competencies are developed in the participants “through games, sports, and not through talking”.

“It is a holistic approach; the senses, hands, and heart are involved. They experience peace with positive experiences of interaction. They should then take this back to their schools and their neighborhoods,” he explained about the initiative that has previously been realized in South Sudan and Burundi. 


The developer of the “Sports4Peace” initiative shared about games, which he said are guided by “the sports4peace dice and its six rules of the game”. 

Rules inscribed on each side of a dice guide a game, the author of the 2005 publication, “Sports4Peace and the 6 rules of the game”, told ACI Africa May 25, adding that each of the six rules on the dice are based on the “golden rule, which is to treat others as you would like to be treated.”

“At the beginning of an activity, we roll the dice together and observe what rule we land on. The second point is to put this rule into practice during a game. For example, if the rule is don't give up, we have to adhere to that rule even if the game is difficult. You try to put into practice this rule,” Dr. Hechenberger explained.

At the end of the game, he continued, the participants sit together to evaluate their activities. 

“We try to collect from the participants what their experiences were and what they thought of them” and put them in writing, Dr. Hechenberger said about the initiative that is to be realized in other Nairobi estates before the end of June, including Kayole, Eastleigh, and Kiambu.

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It is “very important” to look at the good and bad experiences from each activity and to reflect on them for learning to continue taking place, he said about the initiative that is to be realized at Kakuma Refugee Camp in August.

Also speaking to ACI Africa, the Coordinator of the Project Office of the Focolare Movement in Eastern Africa said that prior to any of the sports festivals, a five-day workshop is organized for the animators.

“We are offering three workshops that take five days and are for 25 people who work with young people from organizations connected to Focolare and JRS,” Ernst Ulz said during the May 25 interview.

Mr. Ulz added, “The first day is the training on child protection and then we have three days of training on the methodology for peace and on how to animate games.”

The sports festivals are the climax for the training sessions, the Kenya-based member of the Focolare Movement said, adding that the 25 trainees are to animate the scheduled sports festivals as part of their training.  


In another interview with ACI Africa, William Maluenda, a JRS official, said the planned sports festivals in the East African nation target both refugees and Kenyan citizens “since there can be friction between Kenyans and refugees.”

Mr. Maluenda who is the co-project Manager of Sport4Peace added that the initiative targets refugees because these also have conflicts among themselves.

While sports can help foster peace among people of different age groups, Sports4Peace targets children because it is easier to absorb positive ideas at a young age, the official of the entity of Society of Jesus said during the May 25 interview.

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