Friendship across borders
This summer four of GAME’s volunteer Playmakers, Salem and Lynn from GAME Lebanon and Rana and Leyla from GAME Denmark, have in turn hosted each other through GAME’s Playmaker Exchange Program. The idea behind the Exchange Program is to build bridges between Danish and Lebanese youth by sharing experiences across borders. The GAME zones in Lebanon and Denmark have a lot in common – in both countries the Playmakers are volunteers who coordinate and coach weekly trainings for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods. However, the Playmakers from the two countries can still learn a lot from each other. We have met with the four playmakers during their week in Denmark to learn more about their dedication and dreams.
Leyla and Rana are both Playmakers in the eastern part of Aalborg – a Danish city of 113,000 people. They have been part of GAME for three years. They applied for the Playmaker Exchange Program because they had heard a lot about GAME’s activities in Lebanon. They wanted to experience how GAME works in a Middle Eastern context in order to get inspired and bring new ideas back home. For their Lebanese counterpart, Lynn and Salem, the motivation was in particular to see the GAME houses in Denmark – something they anticipate to see in Lebanon one day.
GAME Denmark operates two indoor street sports facilities – one in Esbjerg and one in Copenhagen. Next year a new house will open in Leyla and Rana’s Aalborg. Salem and Lynn explain that there is a huge need for such facilities in Beirut as well. Beirut is a crowded city and with a lack of public spaces for play. This means that many children and youth are not physically active. In a city that counts over 1.5 million inhabitants, the importance of more public places for play is very present.
“We have so many people who want to play, but we need more facilities”, Salem points out.
Despite not having a GAME house yet, Leyla and Rana explains how one of the greatest experiences they had in Lebanon was to see how the Lebanese Playmakers manage to get the best out of the facilities they have. The many dedicated Playmakers spending much of their free time making a change for kids in their neighborhoods made a big impression on them. Leyla turns to Salem and Lynn to express it like this:
“I loved the fact that you guys have so many plans during the day, but you still do everything for GAME. It is your second family, and that is a really great thing.”
As an example, Rana mentions how Salem stayed at the court the night before a big tournament in order to keep an eye on the equipment. Being very inspired by this great dedication, Leyla and Rana both returned home with new friendships and with even more motivation in their position as Playmakers.
“We can learn a lot of stuff from the Lebanese. The motivation they have is something I want to strive for myself. I am really passionate about GAME but it makes me want to do even more having experienced what they do in Lebanon” Leyla says.
A big family
All four playmakers express that it has been a great experience to meet people from another country who share the same dreams and ideas as themselves. Despite differences between how the street sports practices in their neighborhoods are carried out the Playmakers all want the same thing; To make sports more accessible for young people all over the world. This exchange has brought them a tiny bit closer to the goal, as each of them will bring home new ideas to their home countries.
“There is a GAME family in Lebanon and a GAME family in Denmark, and the exchange program is combining them. Before the exchange program, I did not feel like we were “one family”. There was a gap. But right now, we have learned so much and it is our job to spread the word to the other Playmakers in our own country.” Leyla says.
They all hope the Playmaker Exchange Program will continue in the following years and that the relationship and cooperation between GAME Lebanon and GAME Denmark will become even stronger in the future.
The Exchange Program is sponsored by the EU, MS/ActionAid and KVINFO, the last two with funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark.
If you want to read more about how the Playmaker Exchange Program, read Salem Loutfi’s post on Facebook here.