– GAME and partners’ response to COVID-19

GAME’s street sports practices and Playmaker Education Camps have been transformed into live streaming, videos and tutorials and the volunteers are helping their local communities to keep moving the world while it stands still due to COVID-19. Once again, the young volunteers of GAME and our partners around the world have shown to play a vital role in reaching vulnerable communities – these days not with local sports activities but now with correct health information, online support and communities regarding COVID-19.

Cancelled GAME Zone practices, employees and volunteers under lockdown at home, empty sports facilities and postponed events. GAME stands together with the rest of the world in staying apart during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

But thanks to partner organizations and the core of GAME’s mission – the young volunteers called GAME Playmakers, GAME is still moving the world.

“I feel very privileged to see the impressive resourcefulness that is being brought into play to keep youth and children active, safe, and not fall out of the positive community during this crisis. At these times, when the Playmakers can’t do their weekly street sports practices for the local children, they still have an important role to play in the underserved communities. These roles can vary from country to country and even from community to community. But the principles around youth leadership, being positive role models and the ability to engage in a very unique way with the closer and larger society, is common for all Playmakers,“ says Simon Prahm, CEO in GAME.

The ripple effects of empowering the young Playmakers are immense: The Playmakers bring their learnings to other spheres of their lives: school, jobs, friends and family members. This is a resource that can be activated also when dealing with a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Ever Online Playmaker Camp
GAME, together with partner organizations in different countries, has responded to COVID-19 by transforming as much as possible into online content and thereby continues to create lasting social change.

One of the core activities in all the Playmaker programs around the world is training youth as street sports coaches and role models. The Playmaker Camps gather both new and experienced Playmakers on sessions on street sports, empowerment, life skills, teamwork, gender equality and locally relevant social issues.

In GAME Jordan the camp is always a big thing for the hundreds of youths wanting to make a change in their community. As the COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and closed down all activities also in Jordan, staff and volunteers decided to move it online rather than cancel.

“Going through a total quarantine, we decided not to give up, even though most of our activities are sports and outdoor activities. We decided to go the extra mile and come up with new ideas to adapt to this situation to keep the Playmakers and children active and healthy and also strengthen their sense of belonging to a positive community,” says Ali Haddad, who is country representative for GAME in Jordan and CEO of the partner organization Jordan Youth Innovation Forum.

An unprecedented decision like this is challenging and required involvement of the Playmakers to develop a good concept. Online brainstorms and discussions put the Playmakers voices in the center of the process of planning, testing and implementing the first ever online Playmaker Camp.

The result was a successful, online Playmaker Camp with 70 participants and topics like the GAME methodology, the Sustainable Development Goals, refugees in Jordan and COVID-19 information in the program.

The process and learnings in Jordan have been followed closely by the Danish Playmaker program and our partner in Italy, who are also turning the training and support of the Playmakers digital.

Fighting inequality in health
Health inequality is a problem in underserved communities in Denmark where the majority of the population have migrant or refugee background.

The strength of the ‘doorstep principle’ of the GAME activities has proven important: The practices take place close to the children’s home, and both children and parents know and trust the Playmakers, giving them a unique way-in to the local communities to help delivering accurate information. In this way, the role model function that the young volunteers have built, can be activated when there is a crisis such as corona.

In some of the Danish GAME Zones the Playmakers are still running practices online to make sure the children have something fun to do, while they are at home and let them feel a part of a community. Others help their neighbors doing grocery shopping.

In Malta our partner Move Malta are waiting to implement the plans to establish containers as GAME hubs and our partner in Lithuania has started border-crossing video-challenges between youth to stay active.

In Lebanon, we are getting ready to scale up operations with more GAME Zones and the establishment of Street Sports Incubator to stimulate young people’s entrepreneurial skills to create real business opportunities for youth – both for-profit and nonprofit.

Hygiene ambassadors
Common for all GAME Playmakers are the principles around youth leadership, being positive role models and the ability to engage in a very unique way with their local communities and peers. This is making it possible to play an important role in making sure, that everyone gets the correct and needed information about COVID-19.

In Ghana the Playmakers make sure that the right information goes out to their own communities acting as ‘hygiene ambassadors’ by educating children and families from the inner communities of Accra where GAME operates in partnership with our local partner, DUNK.

Distributing food and hygiene
Lack of food and hygiene items are severe concerns in several of the communities, that GAME and partners operate in. In Ghana, families of the Playmakers and children from urban slums are the most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most families from the communities we work with live by the day through their small scales and are not able to provide the basis for themselves during these challenging times of insecurity and have lost their livelihood, being forced outside in search of food and other necessities. So after the lock-down, we changed our focus from educating on corona and COVID-19 to collecting and distributing food for the families of our Playmakers and children,” says Mo Tahir, who is director of the local organization, DUNK.

And in Somaliland the need for basic sanitation is growing. Therefor GAME Playmakers are now helping out distributing soap and cloth masks to the families of the children from their GAME Zones to help slow the spread.

When online is not enough
In some countries, where online support for the local communities is falling short due to the lack of access to internet and computers, more basic methods are used. In Greece , our partner, ARSIS, prints simple parkour drills from the e-learning platform, GAME Academy, and distributes these ideas on how to stay active and information on how to prevent the spread of the virus along with necessities like food and hygiene effects to the most affected families. And with the Greek government slowly allowing some very regulated activities to take place, ARSIS has created a new zone that focuses on individual strength and cardio exercises.

The future of active communities is – also – digital
In the dark times of the corona pandemic, one thing stands out across all the places where the Playmaker program operates: The power of putting youth in the frontline when working with empowerment and life skills is apparent in the impact on the individual and the community. Forced to be home, the Playmakers are growing in the way they turn to online communities. They support each other, develop ideas and concepts, discuss the authorities’ acts and decisions and this will equip them to embrace participating in communities online in the future.

If we can foresee one thing from this pandemic, it is that it is not the last time the world needs youth leadership that can move the world while it stands still – also digitally.

GAME activities in Jordan is a partnership with the local organization Jordan Youth Innovation Forum (JYIF), and the program is supported by the Danish-Arab Partnership Program (DAPP).

GAME activities in Ghana and Somaliland is a partnership with the local organization DUNK and SCORE Somaliland respectively and the program is supported by Civil Society in Development.

GAME activities in Greece, Malta, Lithuania is a partnership with local organizations supported by ERASMUS+.

GAME Lebanon is supported by the EU.

The Playmaker Program in Denmark is supporten by the Novo Nordisk Fonden, The Danish Ministry of Culture, Det Obelske Familiefond and Ole Kirks Fonden.