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In October this year, GAME Lebanon launched the campaign ’Looking for a Place to Dream’, which aims at getting the youth active again by identifying potential public spaces for sports. The need for accessible playgrounds is very explicit in Lebanon, especially in Beirut where public spaces make up only 0.5% of the city. That is a very small percentage compared to the 15-20% recommended by the UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Observatories Unit. The lack of public space creates a democratic challenge, as public spaces are viable places for a diverse population to meet across differences. Without public spaces for play it is difficult for Lebanese children and youth to meet as equals across sectarian affiliation, ethnicity and gender. This is an issue in a sectarian society still suffering from the reverberations of a civil war, which divided the country in its social fabric and made ‘fear of the other’ prevalent.

Obesity increasingly constitutes another problem in Lebanon. If obesity levels continue to rise, experts predict that three out of ten pre-schoolers in Lebanon will be obese by 2021. One way to stop the escalating obesity is to facilitate free weekly sports activities making children and young people more active. In order to do so, more public spaces for sports need to be established.

That is why the goal of the campaign is to create awareness about the lack of places to play sports in Lebanon. A variety of initiatives developed by GAME’s young volunteers have been rolled out targeting this aim. A ‘GAME Dream’ app has been launched, which engages the youth in the cause. The app lets the user customize photos of unused locations in the city, decorate the pictures with sports emoji’s and share them on the Facebook campaign page. During the campaign, the best virtual street sports facilities designed by the users will be identified and rewarded. The hope is that one day some of the visualizations will be turned into actual places where people can meet and play sports. A campaign video has also been made featuring a female soccer player from the Lebanese National Team. The video humorously illustrates the lack of public spaces in Beirut, as it shows Mariam Chehab in a packed parking lot unable to kick a ball without hitting a car. Watch the video here.

After the first four weeks of the campaign, over 400 people follow the campaign page on Facebook, 512 people have downloaded the app and around 5,000 people have watched the campaign video. Furthermore, the Lebanese TV-channel Aljadeed featured a news report about the campaign on national TV, which afterwards reached 164,000 views and 2,700 likes on Facebook. Following the launch of the campaign, GAME’s cooperation with the Municipality of Beirut has accelerated, and GAME Lebanon expects to able to close a deal about a new roofed street sport facility that will be a new hub for youth sports and volunteerism before the end of the year.

If you are interested in learning more about the campaign, you can follow it on Facebook where you will find frequent posts with articles about public spaces, updates, and competitions (https://www.facebook.com/lookingforaplacetodream).

GAME has met with UN Habitat Lebanon to discuss the “Looking for a Place to Dream” campaign and the shared aim of finding more public places to play sport. Read the article about the meeting here