A local charity is reaching out to refugee children while maintaining its goal of improving lives through sport.
It is easy, especially in the chaotic back to school period, to see sport and exercise as a chore, or a necessary evil performed out of pressure to keep our bodies and minds in best condition. But for the people at Sportunity, it is much more than that.
With a motto and goal of “improving lives through sport”, the Luxembourg-based charity, now in its fourth year, genuinely believes in the power of sport to improve the lives of the young and disadvantaged, and act as a tool for integration into local communities.
“Sport is so universal,” explains DeeDee Ostrowska, the charity’s head of strategic partnerships and operations. “It offers an immediate connection regardless of language and cultural differences, and helps build lasting connections and friendships that go deeper than verbal communication.”
A charity with a global outreach, one of Sportunity’s lines of work is their talent development programme. Relying on private donations and sponsors, they provide support to promising young athletes without the financial means to develop their skills.
With outposts all over the world, sporting talent can be recognised before the young people are referred to Sportunity and accepted by the team at the headquarters in Luxembourg onto their support programme. By empowering high-potential children and teenagers, sport becomes a means of social change, and provides a crucial sense of self-improvement, that Ostrowska deems “so very important for children who have been uprooted from their homes.”
Back in Luxembourg, the initiatives that form the backbone of the charity don’t merely aim to help refugee or underprivileged children. It also runs “integration through sport” and “meet an athlete” sessions that are open to young people of all backgrounds, and give the opportunity for interaction between young aspiring sportspeople and world-class athletes. “We always make sure that our training sessions are absolutely top-quality,” states Ostrowska. “It is good to work on healthy habits of children from the earliest stage and we see sport as a perfect way to introduce displaced children into our community in a very positive and constructive way.”
Sportunity works closely in conjunction with refugee shelters, and in May had professional athletes coach a group of children from the Weilerbach shelter to run the ING mini-marathon.
Now, since the beginning of September, the project has been expanding further, with regular classes in hip-hop dance and karate running twice a week. Taught in French and English, Sportunity are openly seeking local teenagers and children (the classes are segregated by age) to participate in these integrated sports lessons--a perfect opportunity to foster community spirit and give back to a charity that does so much to improve the lives of others.
“What we do takes an immense amount of time and energy, but our Sportunity children can make it all worthwhile in a heartbeat,” adds Ostrowska.