Youth Football Project
In recent years, the social fabric of refugee communities like the Rohingya has been frayed significantly through violence, forced migration and poverty. In Penang, refugees live in dispersed communities where the potential for personal growth, empowerment or opportunity is limited. Lack of employment, restricted access to educational and health services, concerns regarding detention/ stigmatisation, along with fear and concern for the well-being of friends and family remaining in Myanmar/Bangladesh, are pervasive, including among refugee youth.
The Penang Refugee Youth Football League provides healthy physical activity so necessary for well being. It also creates community and social connections, along with a sense that the future contains opportunities rather than just dead ends. The League gives opportunity for teams of youth to gather multiple times per week to engage in football practice and games. Many more refugee youth are keen to join. It aims to harness the innate optimism of young people.
From the beginning, our refugee community workers made sure that the youth participants were encouraged to take responsibility for project management. They now have been able to learn and implement the skills necessary to do this, which are shared with new members.
Meanwhile, new partnerships have merged, not least with the Prince of Wales International School in Penang and with the UEFA Foundation for Children. The former help support the situation where tournaments are arranged and the refugee youth have a chance to play with teams drawn from many different backgrounds. It is a wonderful sharing of competition and friendship and we are indebted to all who have supported this. The UEFA Foundation for Children is supporting some of the costs associated with our football project over the next two years, including supporting two refugee coaches, kits and some running costs. It is fantastic to have partnerships like this.