Today is Commonwealth Day! The theme of this year’s Day is “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.” The theme was chosen because the leaders of diverse Commonwealth nations connect on many levels through means of friendship and goodwill. The Commonwealth works together as a whole to build peace through social development. This theme relates closely to the work we are doing through Commonwealth Sport Canada’s SportWORKS – Sport for Newcomers Initiative (S4N) as we are using sport as a vehicle for the social development of newcomer youth.
One of the ways that we are aiming to contribute to this development is by working to support the social inclusion of newcomer youth. One of the great benefits of sport is the social connectivity that can occur when a group comes together to work towards a common goal. As we help engage new Canadian youth in sport, we are also providing a place of safety, belonging and friendship. This can be extremely valuable for a young person who is new to Canada because it can be difficult to feel like you belong when you are in a new place with new people. There is a great sense of unity and identity that comes from being a member nation of the Commonwealth, and we hope that through this sport for development project, more individuals will be able to feel that unity as a part of a diverse group of youth coming together to learn something new while participating in a fun and active experience.
I have experienced this feeling of unity and belonging that comes from Commonwealth membership on a personal level as I have traveled to different Commonwealth countries. Knowing that there is something that binds us (Canada) with other member countries around the world who share common values and a common mission is a special feeling. Whether it’s playing soccer with village kids on the tiny island of Savaii, Samoa or attending an Auckland Blues rugby game in New Zealand, it is amazing to see how both sport and the Commonwealth go hand in hand in uniting countries, cultures and people. Through the Sport for Newcomers Initiative, we are uniting youth from diverse cultures through sport. Even if it’s just a drop in the bucket, we hope our efforts will contribute to the transformation of the Canadian sport landscape into a more inclusive and accessible system.
Beyond the culturally diverse groups who make up the Commonwealth, there has been a focus on inclusion and development for women, girls and young people in general. We are fortunate enough to get to focus on both of these groups through the S4N project. In the coming weeks we will be offering a new program to junior high aged students specifically for girls and those who identify as girls. We are very excited to offer a space especially for girls to come and enjoy sport in a fun and inclusive environment. We are looking forward to hosting this program and catering it to the specific needs of newcomer girls and the barriers they face.
We are passionate about the work that is being done here in Edmonton through the Sport for Newcomers Initiative and find it satisfying that our efforts with this pilot project will contribute to the greater goals of Commonwealth Sport Canada and the Commonwealth as a whole.
Happy Commonwealth Day!