There was a lot of pride in the recent announcement by Roberto Orlando who runs the Judo For Peace South Africa programme, “We have our first black belts!” It must be said that there is something to be proud of, as obtaining the first dan represents an important step in the life of any judoka.

Enock, Moses, Denzel, Carmi and Rahim are therefore the first beneficiaries of the programme to obtain their black belts. They are and will therefore remain the pioneers, who will undoubtedly give wings to many young people in the years to come.

Roberto Orlando, who worked hard with Dirk Crafford for the JSA shodan curriculum with the support of Judo South Africa, said, "This is our greatest achievement so far. All five of them trained and worked hard to show their dedication to the sport and indeed today there are our black belts. Today we are a proud team that has its own black belts in the dojo. A big well done and congratulations to them!"

It is interesting to note that among the five recipients, three (Enock, Moses and Carmi) are refugees, while Denzel is from Zimbabwe and Rahim from RDC. This perfectly illustrates some of the goals of Judo for Peace South Africa, which is based on inclusion, non-discrimination and friendship.

Judo for Peace South Africa is an initiative funded by the International Judo Federation in collaboration with UNHCR. The focus of the programme is to use judo as a platform for communities to meet, collaborate and contribute to the social cohesion, youth and gender empowerment, and child protection of both local and refugee communities in South Africa. The main partners of the initiative are Nike, Italtile, Three2six, Future Families, Grassroots Soccer and Judo South Africa. As for today, JFPSA is present in Johannesburg with 7 clubs and 5 schools whereas other satellite clubs are in Durban and Cape Town.

Together with the Three2Six programme and REPPSI, Judo for Peace ran a mental health campaign to educate young people about the importance of prioritising mental health with healthy lifestyles involving regular excersise and healthy eating, among other aspects.

JFPSA is also supporting access to judo for women actively. At the end of 2023, many girls participated in an activity to build the social cohesion of the group. At Bass Lake, Vanderbijlpark, they participated in breathing exercises, ice baths, meditation, and went on a boat trip, which generated lots of laughter. They definitely had an amazing day and in the wake of their new black belt role models will come back on to the tatami with extra motivation.

Last but not least, 2023 was concluded with JFPSA hosting its Grand Gala outside the dojo at the Dante Alighieri Society terrace. All funders, sister organisations and supporters from all over the world were invited. "It was amazing, with delicious food, drinks, music, and an amazing interactive drum session with Drumanathi. The ambience was sophisticated and everyone looked wonderful in their evening attire,” said Roberto Orlando.

With brand new black belts and a renewed motivation, Judo for Peace South Africa springs into 2024 in the best way possible. Congratulations to all and good luck for the months to come.

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