Young people learn to dream BIG through International Inspiration
Port-of-Spain, May 2010 - As the Caribbean Airlines flight lifted off the runway at Piarco International Airport in Trinidad bound for Vancouver, Canada, the two young students onboard were still trying to come to terms with the fact they were going to their first-ever Winter Olympics. “When I first entered into my [secondary] school, I never thought I would have had an opportunity like this and that I would have a chance to go to…the Winter Olympics” noted Mikyle Chaitsingh, 17. “When my teacher called my name I thought “what did I do?” and I was scared and when she told me I was chosen for the programme I was so excited.” The programme he is speaking of is International Inspiration and he and his schoolmate, DiAndra Joseph, 16 were two of the 40 participants from Trinidad and Tobago.
International Inspiration or II as it is referred to, is a programme of the UK Government, under its division of UK Sport and its partners UNICEF and the British Council. Building up to the 2012 Summer Olympics, the aim of the three-year programme is to use the power of inclusive and high quality sporting experiences and physical education to transform the lives of young people in schools and communities in developing countries. When the city of London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the UK government committed to make sport and physical education accessible in 20 countries to 12 million children (2012). Trinidad and Tobago is the only Caribbean country to be selected. II has also been launched so far in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Jordan, Mozambique, Palau and Zambia.
As part of the II programme, Mikyle, DiAndra and other students from five schools in Trinidad and Tobago received Youth Sport Leadership training. They were taught skills in leadership, teamwork, event management and communication. With this knowledge they were well prepared to plan and implement sport festivals for young people in schools and communities. “We were taught how to work with young children, children who were in wheelchairs and from orphanages,” said DiAndra who along with Mikyle attend the East Mucurapo Secondary School. “We were trained to organise and plan a sporting event – write letters, call school principals, invite the media and do all the work on the day of the event,” she noted. The four other participating schools are El Dorado East Secondary, Toco Secondary, Mayaro Secondary and Speyside High School.
UNICEF, through its work in the area of sport for development, has been working with the government of Trinidad and Tobago in creating youth friendly environments where sport and physical education are key components of this initiative. “International Inspiration is an excellent compliment to our work with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in creating youth friendly environments,” said Suleiman Braimoh UNICEF Representative for Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. “UNICEF focuses on programmes that help to empower young persons and develop their self esteem and confidence so they can actively claim their rights and participate in their communities, not just recipients of information but as leaders having a voice in the development of their communities.”
Another aspect of the II programme involved partnering the five schools in Trinidad and Tobago with five schools in the UK. Students, teachers and administrators from all schools had the opportunity to learn and share information and experiences in physical education and sport as well as learn each other’s cultures and experiences. The interaction was further enhanced when all the students met in Wales in September 2009 for the International Inspiration UK School Games. “I was overjoyed to visit Wales,” noted Mikyle. “I never thought I would get to meet people from all over the world and learn about different religions and languages….I didn’t know there was a country called Palau before I was in II,” he said smiling. It was his and DiAndra’s first trip outside of Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition to the highlight of going to the Winter Olympics where they were intrigued and amused by some sports such as Curling (“I don’t know of anyone who would sit down and think “ok, let’s sweep ice and make it a sport” said Mikyle jokingly), another major event was the coordination of a mini sports festival to launch the II programme in Trinidad and Tobago. The Prime Minister of the UK, Gordon Brown attended the launch and the young students had the opportunity to meet him and show him the various sporting events at the festival.
II has motivated both DiAndra and Mikyle to work harder at school and at their individual sports but also to dream big. “I want to make the TT National Volleyball Team,” says DiAndra while Mikyle, whose sport is tennis, talks about playing at Wimbledon and opening his own restaurant applying some of the life skills he learned from the II programme.
DiAndra says she wants to work with young girls and encourage them to get involved in PE and Sport. “I look forward to every Wednesday, second period when it is PE class. I would have cried if there was no PE offered in my school,” she commented. “PE boosts your concentration and patience…and keeps you on the right track in life,” while Mikyle quickly added, ”this programme has boosted my confidence. In Vancouver we were interviewed by BBC and UK Sport,” he paused and then said, “Before II, I was shy and soft spoken and I would sit in a corner and grin…now I want to talk.”
For more information
Charlene Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org, UNICEF Trinidad and Tobago
Tamar Hahn, email@example.com, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.