Asbury University At The Summer Olympics

Aug 3, 2012 9:21 AM by Will Houp, Asbury University

Conference Discusses Sports Program For Underprivileged Children

The British Council, the United Nations Children's Fund, and a British agency for high-performance sports (UK Sport) have teamed up to form International Inspiration, a sports program to help underprivileged young people.

Established in 2007, the $62 million project is an international sports legacy program that teaches leadership, community engagement and personal inspiration through sports.

At a press conference in London on Aug. 2, UNICEF's Head of International Inspiration Tom Burstow said that this program is not about merely teaching the young people how to play sports or how to do something; it is about these young people creating their own legacies and their country's legacy.

"We have formed relationships that drive, coordinate and facilitate the programs that are running on the ground," he said. "We convene the right partners that enable us to plan a program that has real meaning, real value. It helps us tackle issues that are prevalent in that country."

International Inspiration works in 20 countries, from Brazil to Tanzania to Malaysia. UK Sport's Head Director of Worldwide Impact Debbie Lye said that in Bangladesh more than 17,000 children die each year from drowning. But potentially life-saving swimming lessons are still not a part of the culture. International Inspiration provides survival swimming lessons for children ages 3 to 10.

Additionally, Lye said that in Azerbaijan a new sports law allowed all Azerbaijan children to play sports in school, including girls and orphans. The law was passed thanks to International Inspiration working with policy makers.

By using sports in the educational setting, International Inspiration has also linked about 600 schools together from across the world, connecting teachers and young people to recognize similarities and differences in their cultures.

"It's not just about being pen-pals," said Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council. "It's about key projects and programs. It is for young people to become globally aware, but also globally fluent, the ability to speak over different borders."

International Inspiration has been approved through 2014 with hopes that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, will pick up where London left off, but in Brazil's own way.

"London is London, and Rio is Rio," Lye said. "It would be very presumptuous to think that a London legacy would be the right thing for Rio to do. But there are conversations, and there is a plan to do something."

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