Babacar Dieng: “Reaching out to children in foster care”
Senegal’s Young Change-Maker (YCM) at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018, Babacar Dieng returned from Argentina after the Games to launch his inclusive YCM+ programme, supported by the IOC’s global partner Panasonic, aimed at helping disadvantaged Senegalese youngsters through sport.
Tell us about your time as a YCM in Buenos Aires.
“It was my best sporting experience ever. The atmosphere and the programme around the Games made me feel that I could move mountains. I learned a lot about my management strengths and I learned to take responsibility, even in pressure situations. I loved learning about cultures different from my own and at all times I thought of the Olympic values of respect, solidarity and friendship to help make the Games as memorable as possible for all those who were involved.”
What is your favourite memory of the Games?
“Taking part in the Athlete Education Programme activities with the young Senegalese athletes. To see them engage joyously with other athletes from different countries was incredible. I also enjoyed the opportunity to explore an amazing city like Buenos Aires with my fellow YCMs.”
Dakar was announced as the host city for the YOG 2022 while you were in Argentina. What was your reaction?
“I was so excited. I hope it will have a great impact on African sport and our young athletes. They will have modern infrastructure to practise their sports, and being with other athletes from all over the world will show them the techniques they have to use. It will be a great experience for them and something that I hope will benefit them. We’ve already started building venues and we will show the beauty and hospitality of Senegal and Africa to the whole world.”
Your YCM+ project targets children from foster care. What was the catalyst for the project?
“I am an empathic person and, when I see people who are not fortunate enough to have what should be accessible to everyone, there is a part of me that sincerely sympathises and I feel their situation deep inside. Sport has contributed a lot in my education, and to my character, and I believe it could also help these children grow up with strong values and confidence.”
How has the programme been delivered?
“The project began in November 2018. I have collaborated with five National Federations – basketball, fencing, swimming, table tennis and karate – to help deliver the sports sessions for the children. I have also had a lot of help from engaged volunteers and friends. In the next phase of the project, we intend to invite some of Senegal’s greatest athletes to the sessions.”
What are your goals?
“To sow in them the joy of life through sport and to instil in them the values necessary for everyone to succeed in life. I hope we can also form champions among them by teaching them that the flame that burns in them is strong enough to help them reach the highest levels in life.”
How successful do you believe you have been?
“So far we have been able to offer sessions to 142 young people – 80 boys and 62 girls – and our success, I think, can be measured by the enthusiasm they have shown, their concentration levels and their ability to communicate and cooperate with the other children they have met as part of the project.”
How has Panasonic helped?
“Along with the IOC, it has co-funded the project. We were also given the opportunity to meet in Japan at Panasonic’s headquarters to better define the objectives of our programme and discuss how to sustain them.”
What does the future hold for the project?
“I hope that it can be extended to many other homes in the country. Values education is something that is really important to me and unfortunately there are still scandals involving top athletes who are supposed to be role models for our youth. I would like to make our young people aware of the appropriate behaviour of athletes off the field, as well as the importance of volunteering and the strong virtues of sport.”
The YCM+ Programme supported by Panasonic is a social entrepreneurship through sport initiative. YCM applicants can submit a project to the IOC that leverages sport for a better world in their community, and the best projects are allocated a maximum of CHF 5,000 of seed funding. Themes cover Healthy & Active Living, Inclusion, Sustainability, and Peace & Development.