Sundus Ahmed and Deniz Çaliskan have been working in Finland as volunteers in one of the five Youth Active Groups (YAGs) which help deliver PLAY! sessions to children and youth at risk of exclusion and school failure.
In this blog they tell us about their experience and how they are taking a nontraditional route to success.
Sundus, 23, never had the opportunity to play sport in her childhood. Sudanese-descent, her contact with the project came through a friend in the Jyväskylä University who suggested she joined.
“It has been a very good experience from me. To teach children to be respectful to one another and solve conflict through sports is an example of how we as society should work together.
“Children are very intelligent but in these ages it is easy to miss the feelings of others or be a bit more self-centred, so for me it has been important to play this role of mediator and teach them to listen to each other”.
To Deniz, 20, sport has been part of her life since an early stage.
“I am very sporty. I play all sports.” she said.
She had been working with children before joining PLAY!, but on the project she was able to link her work experience with her passion for sports.
“This project is perfect. Everybody needs sport and it is perfect for inclusion.” she explained.
On the first year of the PLAY! pilot in Finland, which ran from January until May, both Sundus and Deniz, along with other 11 volunteers, received training from FIMU and the Jyväskylä University on how to plan and implement sporting sessions and later helped devise these across youth clubs in Helsinki.
Both agreed this has been an important experience for their personal and professional development.
“I have learned new things, the children have learned new things from me and our team. It has been great and I would recommend for others to get involved in the project’s next pilot.” Deniz said.
“I have also learned many things”, Sundus continued, “some from simply observing other people and their behaviour in different situations.
“The impact this project has had on a professional level is huge, I have pushed myself further and children and others have also seen that I am capable of doing this.” she added.
Looking at the potential of the project in helping them in their careers, they were also both positive.
“Everything you learn helps you in some way. If you are looking to work with children, you can show this project as part of your experience and it will certainly be an added value. Being part of a European project like this is very important.” Deniz explained.
On this, Sundus highlighted the value and wider understanding of working with different cultures.
“When you work with children from different cultures you get to see that there are language barriers, but that with some effort these can be broken and how sports can help in this process.
“In a project like this, you learn about communication skills, you learn about leadership, social kills, being open minded, and all these are transferable to the work field.”
We spoke to Sundus and Deniz on the first day of the PLAY! training camp. They were both excited to be joining the camp and learning about what their peers in other countries had been working on.