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Light for Kick: Discovering unity through sports

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

I am Mohammed Rasheed Nasrullah from Irakkamam, located on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. I am passionate about making a change in society and this is what led me to volunteer to be a part of SEDR Active Citizens journey, through which we had an invaluable opportunity to bring to life a Social Action Project (SAP).

On identifying a need for dispute resolution among youth who were engaging in sports activities, mainly cricket and soccer, at a common school playground in our area in Irakkamam, our team came up with possible solutions. It was hoped that through this, there would be improved unity among the teams, and mutual understanding among sports clubs through creating awareness and equal opportunity to share the use of the playground. This project had the scope of benefiting approximately 300 cricket and soccer players in the Irakkamam community, and this is what motivated our passionate Active Citizens team members. Our main goal was to create harmony in the youth community and always encourage unity.

Since there existed only one playground suitable for sports activities in the area, frequent verbal arguments and at times, even physical fights have broken out over its use. As such, the focus of our SAP was to find a solution for this issue. We thereby intended that by creating effective negotiation and cooperation between the three playgroups, they could be encouraged to come up with a mechanism where they could all use the same ground without any clashes.

We started by reaching out to the school principal, the Community Mediation Board (CMB)[1] and the sports groups. On speaking to the key members of the two sports clubs, it was agreed that they would work for the allocation of proper slots so the teams could all have turns in using the playground effectively, and a preparation plan was agreed upon by both teams. It was also proposed for bright flood lights to be fixed by lobbying the Pradeshya Sabha[2] so playing time could be extended to evenings, and thus the playground could also be used by two teams at a time.

The dispute between the sports clubs has been existing for a long time with no proper solution emerging. Disputes had become so serious that they often involved the police and could have been a hindrance to the future of these young players. Though it was quite a challenge to bring the clubs together to meet and arrive at a solution, with active input from the school principal, the CMB and the sports groups, we were able to come up with a basis on how the teams can use the same playground during the day and in the evening without any clashes. This reduced the tensions between the teams and united them as they even agreed to take part in a Shramadana[3] to clean the premises together.

Not only did this project result in a more accessible playground common to a variety of sports groups, it also has the potential to bring forth a diverse youth group of sports leaders from all the communities. Although the dispute concerns only a playground, its impact is huge because of the difference it has made in the local community. It has allowed the players to realise that true unity and sportsmanship is important in any game.

For me personally, I have learnt that things may look easily resolvable at a glance, but it was only when we actually stepped into the project that we realised the nuances involved, and in doing so, we gained invaluable experience and confidence

[1] There are 329 Community Mediation Boards across Sri Lanka, where more than 8,400 well trained volunteer mediators used interest-based mediation approaches to resolve more than 200,000 disputes in local communities per year. [2] Pradeshiya Sabhas are the locally elected legislative bodies that preside over the third-tier municipalities in Sri Lanka. [3] Shramadana directly translated means “gift of labour” and in the Sri Lankan context refers to an event or project where volunteers provide support or services to a local community.

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