A group of young people from some of the poorest communities in Scotland fly out to the World Cup of Friendship in South Africa today (28 May 2010) after a church-led initiative helped them turn their lives around.
They are all youngsters who are at risk of, or have been involved in, gang violence. Now they want to use their experience to help prevent others falling into a life of trouble and crime.
The Youth World Cup of Friendship will be based at the Chrysalis Academy, one of the leading youth leadership organisations in South Africa. Activities will focus on overcoming violence and conflict, family relationships, and promoting team work as well as playing mixed-national football matches and a visit to Lavender Hill, one of the largest coloured townships on the outskirts of Cape Town, in an event that is intended to be a life transforming experience for those involved.
The nine-strong team will be accompanied by youth workers from the Church of Scotland on their three week trip to the World Cup of Friendship, thanks to a joint initiative between the church’s Priority Areas Team and Strathclyde Police Community Initiative to Violence Project.
All of the team members, who are aged between 16 and 21 years old, have found new purpose and possibility in life and say they now want to be role models to other young people by encouraging them to show a 'red card' to crime.
Kirk 'Priority Areas' Team leader Neil Young, who will be with the team in South Africa for the Youth World Cup of Friendship, said the youths will be working with a team from Germany alongside young people from Cape Town in youth leadership activities.
The Youth World Cup of Friendship relates directly to two of the Priority Area Team’s main strategic points, to take its work to the margins and to develop leaders.
The experience of the Priority Area Team over the last decade highlights that it is particularly important to develop positive young male leaders in environments where peer pressure often pulls young men in the opposite direction.
Neil Young commented: “Inevitably any event in South Africa in the summer is going to involve football but while there is time to play in matches, this event is much more than football. It is about bringing together almost 40 young men who are demonstrating a clear potential to be positive community leaders and role models from the poorest communities in Scotland, Germany and South Africa. It is about working with them to nurture and develop that potential."
"At a local level, we are aiming to develop the work we do in partnership with the Violence Reduction Unit at Strathclyde Police [in] which the Priority Areas Committee and Ministries Council has an increasingly strong record,” he added
The hope behind the Youth World Cup of Friendship is that it can be developed as an ongoing programme for youth development and leadership. Informal talks on hosting a similar event next year in Germany and Scotland in 2014 as part of the Commonwealth Games have already taken place.