The Judo for Peace Southern Africa mission is coming to an end with the third and final visit to a refugee camp, in Zimbabwe, after those in Zambia and Malawi. Tuesday 24th April was therefore entirely devoted to visiting the Tongogara camp located not far from Chipinge in Manicaland Province, approximately 420 km southeast of Harare.

The few hundred kilometres which separate the camp from the capital represent a first major step to take to arrive in the isolated area where more than 16,000 people are settled. In the 1990s, Tongogara had up to 60,000 refugees.

Located in the middle of an agricultural plain, the camp today has a large number of young people who can benefit from an educational programme thanks to the work and effort of the local authorities and the UNHCR, which opened the doors wide to the delegation formed by the Zimbabwe Judo Association, representatives of the Southern Africa Judo Confederation and the IJF.

Judo entered the camp two years ago, as the initiative of the national federation chaired by Smart Deke, who took the opportunity to combine the project with that of Judo in Schools, the ultimate objective of which is to offer judo in all schools in the country.

Today there are around forty judoka from the refugee community who train regularly, a number increasing since the launch of judo activities there, benefiting from equipment donated by the IJF and made available by the federation. The Judo in Schools programme reaches up to 300 children in the area.

On 24th April a group of young camp residents was able to benefit from a judo session provided by the IJF. They participated in a working session and awareness group on human rights.

It must be emphasised that the practice of judo is not anecdotal and it does not represent just a sporting practice like any other. The values conveyed by our sport and its ability to restore confidence to those who lack it the most and who have experienced the worst in the past, is clear.

Living in a refugee camp remains difficult and is a daily challenge that limits development prospects despite the effort made by all stakeholders. This is why, beyond the visit itself, what was important was to strengthen the partnership that exists between the federation, the confederation, the government and the UNHCR and the IJF of course.

The visits to Mayukwayukwa (Zambia), Dzaleka (Malawi) and Tongogara (Zimbabwe) therefore mark a turning point in the implementation of the Judo for Peace programme in the region. Strengthening the five-year vision of the confederation, which also counts NIF (Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports) among its leading partners, was on the agenda and demonstrated that anything becomes possible when people work hand in hand. The desire of the UNHCR and the respective governments to be active partners of Judo for Peace was also highlighted, with the desire to contribute to the wellbeing of refugee populations as well as local communities, in a desire to promote inclusion and sustainability.

This last point is crucial, because it is important that the projects have a lifespan that extends over time. New ramifications are already planned with the opening, for example, of a third refugee camp in Zambia by the end of the year. Tripartite and cross-border activities are also planned in the years to come.

What we will remember above all from these two weeks of visits is an enthusiasm for judo and for what it brings to the most deprived. Totally aligned with Jigoro Kano's desire to create an activity which encourages the development of the body and mind and which promotes mutual welfare and benefit (jita kyoei), Judo for Peace in Southern Africa also finds an echo in the Judo for Peace South Africa activities and in all the educational programmes developed by the IJF. The smiles displayed by the children who participated in the activities are the best proof of this.

During each judo session, they forget some of the worries of life and concentrate on activities which little by little build them as human beings and as citizens of the world.

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