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Sport Power: adolescents as agents of social change

Sport Agents, active peer education, boys helping younger children.

And the SSF Van tour is starting soon.

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It’s been a year of successes and achievements. Sport Power, the innovative youth empowerment project that originates from tailor-made actions for teenagers and revolves around the concept of Sport Agents - young people between 13 and 17 years old carrying values and positive growth models that they apply in support of slightly younger children (6-12 years old) - celebrated its first birthday projected towards new and expanded activities. The 36-month project, inspired by the Sport Senza Frontiere intervention model, strategically extends the non-profit organisation's educational offer and enhances the aptitudes and skills of the girls and boys involved, starting from the concept of active peer education.

Being protagonists of one's own growth by helping others to grow

This is the philosophy behind Sport Power. Launched in September 2022, Sport Power is the project that revolves around the concepts of positive leadership, selected by Con i Bambini as part of the Fund to fight child educational poverty and supported by Enel Cuore, the Enel Group's non-profit organisation. It aims to include young people in educational poverty and to create positive role models among adolescents through leadership acquired in civic activism programmes. "The first step" - explains Valentina Testa, SSF project manager - was to identify minors in disadvantaged conditions to whom to propose the project.

We selected 120 of them and recruited young potential Sport Agents to follow. These were included in a training course starting in February 2023 in the four project cities: Rome, Naples, Bari and Domusnovas. A total of 50 are scattered throughout the various cities. The course revolves around the concept of peer education, effective communication, volunteering and social responsibility, knowledge and appreciation of one's own territory and animation techniques for children.

The Sport Agents are supervised by the Community Activator Tutor and the Psychologist, who are present in each city, and participate in a monthly training and experience exchange meeting".

The training course, accompanied by practical social engagement activities, will have fixed monthly appointments and will last until June 2025. Thanks to the permanent training course, the Sport Agents, together with the local solidarity sports networks, are enabled to help teams dealing with socio-economically disadvantaged minors and follow them in socio-educational programmes with a sporting vocation. "The young people involved - Testa continues - immediately embraced the project with enthusiasm; in Bari and Domusnovas, for example, they started volunteering as soon as the courses started, without waiting for the activation initially planned for the summer.

In Bari, the guys met at the Associazione sportiva dilettantistica  Scuola di ciclismo Franco Ballerini (Franco Ballerini Cycling School) and immediately acquired great skill in riding Hug Bikes (special bicycles structured as tandems and designed to transport passengers with various disabilities who are literally 'embraced' by the rider, ed). Our Sport Agents spontaneously started practising their driving skills and then made themselves available to accompany disabled minors who wished to participate in the tours organised by the ASD". Of the 18 Sport Agents in Rome, 5 are young Ukrainian refugees who arrived in Italy during the summer of 2022.

In Rome, an enhanced and more complex path of social inclusion is being pursued than in other cities, as the organisation team decided to work with young refugees from a dramatic situation of armed conflict. Since 2022, Sport Senza Frontiere has been taking care of the integration of young people from critical contexts such as Ukraine, Syria and various African countries, placing them within the socio-cultural and sporting fabric of the city of Rome.

In summer 2023, Sport Agents from all target cities engaged in voluntary actions organised by the partnership ASDs, supervised by the community activator tutor. In many cities, the Sport Agents worked in groups, dividing into subgroups at places where summer centres were held, to do activities with the youngest children. In the case of Bari, they took part in cycling events, bicycle rides organised by the Franco Ballerini sports club, while in Domusnovas they organised the Festa del Bambino (Children's Festival) dedicated to the youngest children, and provided entertainment with stations where groups of children took turns to play games and sports.

And for the coming year?

In addition to all the activities carried out in the first year - sports courses for minors between 6 and 12 years old, psycho-educational mentoring and monitoring, training for Sport Agents and volunteer activities - which will, of course, continue, an innovative and high-impact action is added.

The Sport Senza Frontiere Van Tour

"The Sport Senza Frontiere Van - says Roberta De Fabritiis, SSF's communications manager - will function as a mobile gymnasium to facilitate sports activities in unequipped public spaces and to carry out mini paediatric screenings thanks to the presence of qualified health personnel. The Van will travel on a tour that will pass through Rome, Naples, Domusnovas and Bari and will cover the spring months of 2024 and 2025. It will make stops in peripheral areas where the population is most in need of free opportunities for socialising, sport and raising awareness of issues such as wellbeing and health prevention. The van will travel at weekends and will be appropriately branded, also serving as a vehicle for promotion and dissemination".

In each city, during one stop, the Van will also host an exceptional Sports Testimonial who will interact with children, families, operators and Sport Agents. The Sport Agents residing in each city will be engaged in the organisation of the local stages of the Tour, always guided by their Community Activator Tutor.

Sport Senza Frontiere was founded in 2011 in Rome with the aim of combating poverty and social inequality through projects that use sport as a tool for inclusion, harmonious growth and emancipation of minors at risk and/or in situations of poverty and social marginalisation. The association has experienced a significant expansion that has quickly led it to become an active agent of social change at the national level, growing from 15 minors taken into care in 2011 to over 4,000 beneficiaries in 2022. Starting in 2015, Sport Senza Frontiere began operating permanently in all municipalities of Rome, in the cities of Naples, Milan, Turin, Bergamo, Bari, Domus Novas and Novara. In eleven years of activity, Sport Senza Frontiere has accompanied, assisted and helped hundreds of children in situations of socio-economic hardship and their families. The association avails itself of important partnerships and collaborations including: UNHCR, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Department of Sport and Department of Family Policies, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Faculty of Training and Educational Sciences of the University of Roma Tre, Sport and Health, CONI, The University of Tor Vergata in Rome, Cattolica University of Milan - Department of Advanced Psychology, the Vodafone Foundation, the Enel Cuore Foundation, Impresa Sociale con i Bambini, the Foundation with the South, the Cariplo Foundation, the Charlemagne Foundation, the Haiku Foundation, the UISP and the CSI, as well as several local institutions (Region, Municipalities, Municipalities). In 2014, the social inclusion through sport programme was identified as Best Practice by CONI.