The core values of judo are at the heart of a wide-ranging International Judo Federation Project which is helping thousands of refugees in some of the world’s most troubled regions.
Malawi, in Southern Africa, is the latest country where the National Judo Federation and IJF have joined forces to develop and deliver a programme which aims to build on the educational potential of judo to bring diverse groups together and provide a focus for peace.
The programme, under the Judo for Peace banner, is being run at the Dzaleka refugee camp which houses some 35,000 people from 15 countries who have fled their homelands because of war or social conflict. Of these some 55 per cent are under 17 years old.
“The programme will recreate a collective identity, and strengthen unity, fighting stereotypes and building on trust, discipline, friendship, respect, politeness, courage, honour and modesty, which are the fundamental values of the moral code of judo,” says Judo for Peace Commission head Nicolas Messner.
“All refugees will be welcomed with open arms,” he adds.
Young refugees are inevitably confused and vulnerable and judo offers a safe space and mental focus which will help them to develop physically, mentally and emotionally through regular structured practice, play and competition.
Judo for Peace projects are also helping refugees in:
- Syrian Refugee Camps: Under the supervision of the IJF and led by the Turkish Judo Federation a refugee camp program was launched in the Kilis Region of Turkey in 2015. Judo activities are organised for children at a camp on the Syrian border with both equipment and expertise provided by the programme. The IJF won the prestigious Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award for its work with the prize money reinvested to support the young refugees.
- Great Lake Region of Africa: The JFP program has been successfully running since 2006. Starting with 80 judokas in 2006 and three clubs in Burundi, there are today 1,500 judokas and 17 clubs over the same territory. A national dojo has been built in Bujumbura to help the development of judo in the whole region. Equipment is regularly sent to support the activities. In 2014, Burundi obtained its first medal at the continental level [Cadets African Championships].
- Zambia: An extensive program is running in Livingston that involves 600 children in three clubs. This program is led by the Judo for Fred committee of Norway and the Zambian Judo Association with the support of IJF. A refugee camp programme was also officially launched in 2016 in the Maheba Refugee Settlement in the North-West of the country. A dojo is under construction in the Olympic Youth Development Center of the capital city Lusaka, which will help to spread furthermore the judo values.
- South Africa: Several activities were set up over the past years in South Africa to help to support the development of judo in difficult and disadvantaged areas. The Judo for the World programme, led by IJF expert Roberto Orlando, is taking care of refugees who are living in the country.