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OFFERING A HEALTHY AND SUPERVISED SPARE-TIME ACTIVITY FOR CHILDREN AT RISK OF GANG ENGAGEMENT IN RURAL AREAS.
Uses table tennis as a vehicle to promote positive individual and social change in communities that lack opportunities and to promote the sport among groups that traditionally would not have access to table tennis.
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The programme starts with the El Salvador Table Tennis Federation, in cooperation with the National Sport Institute, identifying suitable venues in the countryside where there are not many supervised activities available for young people.
The ITTF then provides equipment for these venues through sponsors, as well as delivering technical coaching courses and social education to the programme coaches.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Japanese embassy provide financial support and Japanese volunteers to the programme, underpinning the programme with operational security for the future. Coaches for each venue are hired to deliver weekly table tennis lessons at the venues. At the same time, social education is provided to the participants on a different value or topic every month.
Each venue regularly hosts exhibitions where national junior team members perform exhibition matches. These players act as role models for the participants and allow them to witness the sport being played at a high level in their own personal surroundings. At the end of each year, the programme culminates in a weekend festival where all participants gather together, meet one another and play table tennis.
Focus on areas where there are no sports opportunities
This project specifically targets the countryside areas in El Savador where young people have little or no access to sport. Table tennis lends itself well to being played in small spaces and where people can gather in a community setting. By giving participants an alternative recreational option, the programme aims to guide them away from the more dangerous lifestyle choices that have been commonly associated with the youth of these communities in the past.
Inclusivity and social engagement
The programme places a high emphasis on bringing as many local youngsters in the community together as possible. In the El Salvadorian countryside, it can be difficult to find a communal gathering place for young people where they can meet and socialise. Furthermore, the sporting and social programmes that are put in place by the coaches and staff focus on engaging as many of the participants as possible in an equal way, regardless of their sporting ability. By making participants feel welcome and engaged, the likelihood of them going down a more dangerous path is reduced.
Combing sports education with values for life
The project is split between delivering sport-orientated programmes and delivering social education programmes. The sports programmes focus on delivering table tennis coaching and practice from trained coaches, as well as continually providing new and updated equipment for venues and participants. The social education programmes are delivered at the venues at the same time as the sport programmes. This ensures that participants are fully engaged with the social aspect of the programme and not only the sporting one. This is critical to teaching participants about the dangers of anti-social lifestyle choices.
Promote sport and physical activity
El Salvador has the 14th highest mortality rate in the world and the prevalence of diabetes is continually increasing, with El Salvador now in the top 25% of worst affected countries globally. The promotion of physical activity is critical to tackling these problems and the project aims to do just that. By giving participants the ability to not only become physically active, but also to engage with their peers in a communal and safe environment, the programme is promoting the use of physical activity as a beneficial vehicle for these at-risk youngsters across the country.
Support active societies
El Salvador is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and the countryside areas are particularly disadvantaged in terms of the level of isolation, poverty and crime. These challenges directly prohibit the widespread practice of sport and physical activity, especially compared with urban centres. For this reason, Dream Building El Salvador focuses specifically on these areas. The programme focuses on developing participant skills and opening them up to role models and higher standards of sport through national team exhibitions and invited guests. New and functional equipment is also installed, providing these communities with a basic sporting infrastructure to be enjoyed by all.
Provide equal access to sport
The programme specifically focuses on areas where there is little or no access to sport for the community. The topology and weather of the El Salvadorian countryside prohibits the practice and enjoyment of many sports by its inhabitants. One of the unique advantages of table tennis is the ability to play the sport without the need for large open spaces, suitable weather and large numbers of participants or capital investments. Dream Building leverages these advantages.
The programme promotes itself to potential participants through community channels such as local youth centres or schools. This is the most effective form of communication for the project as all venues are in small villages in the countryside. The project also engages in some social and print media communications.
The programme is evaluated quarterly by the General Coordinator who is joined by a Sport for All representative from the national government. The ITTF also quantitatively monitors the programme on an annual basis by employing template evaluation sheets.