Sport Sans Frontières alongside Ukrainian children and teenagers in Italy, so that they feel at home

Promote the integration of minors escaped from the horror of war through sport, friendship and “teaming up”. This is the commitment of Sport Senza Frontiere, which since 2011 has been supporting the development of young people in disadvantaged social situations. On the occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 2022, the organization launches the “Sport di Prima Reception” initiative and a fundraising campaign for those who wish to contribute to the project

Adriana Masotti – Vatican City

Sport can exert a strong influence in the world to promote reconciliation and promote more peaceful societies, which is why Sport Senza Frontiere wants to be at the forefront in the battle for rights and for hospitality. In the current context characterized by the war in Ukraine and the arrival of refugees in Italy as well, the association has mobilized through a specific program to support children and young people arriving through the humanitarian corridors. “Sport di Prima Reception” is the name of the intervention already active in Rome, Milan and Naples, but which will soon spread throughout Italy, with the immediate aim of reaching at least a hundred minors. It consists of integrating young Ukrainians into the many sports clubs that have made themselves available to follow them, also offering them psychological support and the assistance of a tutor as a trusted reference for the minor and intermediary with the family.

Sport, a valuable contribution to hospitality

“Ensuring a sustainable and peaceful future for all: the contribution of sport”. It is around this theme that the 2022 edition of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, celebrated every April 6, revolves. A very topical subject, he tells our microphones Sandro Palmierigeneral manager of the Sport Senza Frontiere association, emphasizing how flight from war, the loss of ties and references, fear for oneself and those close to them, landing in an unknown country after exhausting journeys, are all generating factors expatriation to which it is necessary to give adequate answers:

Listen to the interview with Sandro Palmieri

Sandro Palmieri, since the start of the war in Ukraine, Sport Senza Frontiere has been active by launching an emergency intervention that you called “First Reception Sport”, can you explain to us what this project consists of?

For 11 years, Sport Senza Frontiere has been dealing with accessibility to sports for children and young people in a situation of social disadvantage to promote integration and social inclusion, so as an association we have set ourselves the problem of knowing how to respond to the emergency arising from the war and how we too can contribute to it. So we decided to offer what we know how to do, which is to use sport as a tool for integration and inclusion and, in this case, hospitality. The “Premier Accueil Sport” project consists of integrating children and young people who have arrived in Italy into existing sports courses in the associations registered in our solidarity network. We launched an appeal to our partner sports associations who responded with great generosity.

Have insertion files already been initiated? How do the children fit in?

Yes, some have already been activated, in Roman territory we are already introducing the first 26 children and young people. Many of them already practiced a sporting activity in Ukraine, so we also tried to include them in the disciplines they already practiced: football, table tennis, basketball, volleyball. The placement is going very well, the families are very happy and also grateful and, besides that, we also try to provide them with a minimum of support and psychological support. We provide them with the sports kit and above all, through our tutors, our educators, we try to create this link which, at the moment, is very important at least to attenuate a little the strong trauma suffered by these minors.

How are the children? What are their reactions and their stories?

As you can imagine, the children do not speak the Italian language, but what we can say is that, despite the strong language barrier, they participated in the training and integrate well. To overcome the difficulty of the language we also activate a cultural mediation service.

When it comes to sport, especially in Italy, we think first of all of football, you also mentioned other sports, but we tend to see sport more as a boy’s thing. In short, will girls also find as many sporting opportunities?

Certainly, for example, we have activated athletics courses and artistic gymnastics courses, it is not just football. As is the philosophy of Sport Senza Frontiere, we seek to promote all sports disciplines because each discipline is an asset in sports practice. Precisely because everyone values ​​certain skills more than others, a good thing is that the children and young people of Sport Sans Frontières practice a wide range of sports.

We don’t know how long this war will last, how long Ukrainian families and children will stay in Italy. But you have already made a commitment to be close to them even during the summer. With what initiatives?

In fact, we have already posed the problem of the summer period which could be a period of loneliness and isolation, so we organize, together with the sports clubs, particular summer centers called Joypoint in different cities and also camps residential, the Summer camp, both in Leonessa in Latium, and in the Aosta Valley in Gressoney-Saint-Jean. There will be weekly summer camps in which not only the Ukrainian children will participate, there will obviously also be the other children from Sport Sans Frontières and it will also be a moment of integration, we will carry out workshops on body expression, food and environmental education as well as, of course, all sports-related activities.

I imagine that Ukrainian children will be able to join these initiatives for free…

Certainly, and that’s why in this period we are also working on a fundraising campaign, to then give sustainability to this initiative. On the Sport Senza Frontiere website you will find all the information you need to support and contribute to the realization of hospitality and all these projects.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is: “Ensuring a Sustainable and Peaceful Future for All: The Contribution of Sport”. Is this a title that we had already thought of before this war?

Indeed, it is a very current title, we think that sport really has this ability to unite people, children and young people from different worlds and different cultures. I think that in this period the title of World Day is very very appropriate because the sport practiced, not only in a competitive way, which in any case is an absolutely characterizing element of the practice of sport, has great power and it is making people feel like part of a team and that, in my opinion, is something very important, especially in this time when social relationships have become fragmented due to enforced isolation. In this sense, I think that sport can certainly be an important educational opportunity, beyond the benefits of psychophysical well-being, even in the sense of leaving no one behind.

All this seems to me to be in line with what the Pope often says, emphasizing precisely how precious the values ​​of sport are. Francesco had many meetings with teams, sports associations…

Yes, he met us too and took a photo with the Sport Sans Frontières t-shirt. Pope Francis strongly believes in what we say. And there are many requests from associations working in the field of welcoming refugees who come from Ukraine to take care of these young people, because in this period it is very important to be close to them, to offer them spaces games, sports and socializing. We believe that this activity can really make an important contribution to healing the traumas they have unfortunately experienced as a result of the war.


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