2000 young people in Guatemala at risk of violence will use sports and arts as a tool to keep them safe and learn life skills.

Two boys in Guatemala play football

YMCA Guatemala has launched the ‘Sport for Change’ project to tackle the culture of violence brewing in local communities after a brutal 36 year civil war which left 200,000 people dead. With support from Y Care International young people will have the chance to play sports such as football, basketball, baseball in a safe space, and learn skills to resolve conflict in a peaceful way.

Young people’s day to day lives are still very much affected by the civil war that displaced nearly one million people. Although the conflict ended in 2006 the murder rate remains one of the highest in the world. According to the UN, 80 per cent of victims of violent crimes in Guatemala are young people which range from bullying and harassment in school, to being recruited by armed gangs with links to the drug trade and organised crime. Young women also suffer from domestic violence and struggle to make their voices heard.

Growing up surrounded by a culture of violence has increased inequality in Guatemala, with young people struggling to access health and education services, and develop livelihoods so they can earn an income.

The Sport for Change project funded by Comic Relief will make sure young people know what their rights are, and have the skills to transform community spaces into safe recreation spaces. Families will be helped by the YMCA to reduce violence in their homes and teachers will be supported in schools exposed to local gangs and peer violence. Young people will take the lead in tackling stigma and discrimination in their communities by organising events to promote peace and non-violence.

Gemma Hayes, Latin America and Caribbean Programme Manager at Y Care International said:

“I’m excited about engaging young people using popular sports. When young people have experienced violence it’s vital they feel comfortable around others, and sports can create a safe environment where you can learn skills and have fun too!”