One of 53 social entrepreneurs engaged in the IOC Young Leaders Programme, Jean-Claude Rugigana is promoting the Olympic values through martial arts in Rwanda with the help of IOC funding.
What is the name of your Young Leaders project?
“It is called ‘Best Holidays Karate For Children’. I was inspired by the chance to positively impact my local community through sport, after attending the 59th International Session for Young Participants, which took place at the International Olympic Academy in Greece in June 2019. It was here I learned about the Young Leaders programme and I realised it could be an accelerator in making my dreams of contributing to the development of my country using sport.”
What is the goal of ‘Best Holidays Karate For Children’?
“My hope is that the project will help to contribute to achieving the United Nations’ third Sustainable Development Goal, which focuses on good health and well-being for all. The sports camp gives an opportunity to children to do something new and healthy during the school holidays and instil in them the Olympic values and develop their curiosity in sport and karate. The heart of Olympism is the peace and sustainable development that the world needs. I also hope that the project will help improve their academic performance when they return to school.”
How old are the children?
“They are between four and 16 years old. The first phase of the project took place in November and December 2019. The next phase will be in July and August this year, while the third and final phase is scheduled for November and December. The programme is based in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda and, so far, 152 children, including 47 girls, have taken part. I hope in the future, with the support of the government, to extend the project to other areas of the country.”
Was karate the only sport on offer?
“We were also able to give the children the chance to try badminton, basketball and sports chanbara, another martial art, as well as traditional Rwandan dance. We introduced these sports to try and make each day as lively, joyful and diverse as possible.”
What feedback have you had following the first phase of the project?
“I believe the fact we were able to attract more than 150 children to the camp was a sign of our success and put us on course to achieving our target of involving over 200 children by the end of the programme. I have also received many good comments from the children and their parents, who said they enjoyed the camp and the chance to experience sports that were new to them.”
What support have you had in delivering your project?
“Of course, I have been very grateful for the backing of the IOC and the financial support from Panasonic. In addition, I have worked closely with the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee, the Ministry of Sports and the Rwanda Karate Federation, which provided an Olympic Values Education Programme educator, a sports development officer and karate coaches respectively. As a result, we had six coaches, plus eight volunteers, to ensure the children were able to get the most from their experience. Moving forward, I’m optimistic I can persuade investors to join me and help make the project even bigger.”
You’re the General Secretary of the Rwanda Sports Chanbara Federation. Why opt for karate rather than chanbara as the main focus for your programme?
“They are both martial arts from Japan, but karate is more popular in Rwanda. Chanbara is still a relatively new sport here and I wanted the camp to be as accessible as possible. With the assistance of the head coach of the Rwandan Karate Federation, Mr Nkuranyabahizi Noel, I have been organising karate camps for children since 2016, and it seemed logical to continue with the same sport for my Young Leaders project. I have been practising karate for a decade now and have reached the level of third Dan.”
How have you invested your IOC seed funding?
“The money will be spent over all three phases of the project, and so far it has been so helpful in securing coaches for the camp, as well as buying equipment for the children.”
For the fourth year running, the IOC is grateful for the support of TOP Partner Panasonic, whose generosity has made it possible to further develop the IOC Young Leaders Programme.
Supported by a grant from the IOC of up to CHF 5,000, the new IOC cycle will see over 50 new and ongoing initiatives undertaken worldwide over the next 12 months. The previous 2018-19 cycle delivered 39 life-changing projects globally.
Each new initiative is focused on one of seven core themes: athlete-focused education; the environment; gender equality; healthy living; inclusion (disability) and inclusion (displaced and minority populations); and Olympic values education.