Imagine, you woke up at 2:30 a.m., then drove for more than six hours to get to your destination. That's what you believe. You are tired, not to say exhausted, especially since the state of the road has not really allowed you to rest. On the other hand, the landscapes crossed were absolutely beautiful and you were plunged into the heart of a colourful and welcoming Africa. It is then that you realise that this was not the final destination, because you still have to drive 80km on a chaotic gravel road to finally be able to say that you have really arrived at the Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement. It is then that you understand that what you are about to experience is exceptional in every sense of the word.

Mayukwayukwa is actually a long way from everything, isolated from everything, unknown to almost everyone. However, it is one of the oldest refugee settlements on the African continent and thousands of people live there today in an environment that resembles a village, with its central square, its shops and its schools and with dozens of children running in all directions, especially visible as they are happy to see new faces in their secluded environment.

It is in this unlikely place that the Zambia Judo Association (ZJA) launched its second Judo for Peace programme, in 2021, following the Meheba pilot project that was inaugurated in 2016. Jigoro Kano, who, when he created judo dreamed of creating a fairer society, would be happy to see that his initial idea is today being taken up in the four corners of the planet and especially in the most remote places. When you think about it, it's actually quite incredible. What did judo come to do in Mayukwayukwa?

It came to respond to an expectation and a need. We must therefore understand who the people who live here are. Originally from the four corners of Africa, they had to flee their countries of origin and ended up in Zambia, a country with a long tradition of peace, stability and hospitality. Yet, being a refugee, even in a welcoming country, is never easy, especially with most people carrying significant trauma with them.

It is in this context that judo intervenes and it provides, thanks to the Judo for Peace programme, the values ​​which are often lacking among the suffering youth. During the visit carried out on Wednesday 17th April by the JFP Commission and the ZJA, most of the discussions focused on the judo session conducted in the dojo built with the support of NIF (Norway). To sum things up, it was a timeless moment, a moment of sharing and joy, a moment that will remain engraved for life in the minds of the children and the experts present on site.

Today’s session was obviously about judo, but above all it was about the values ​​conveyed by our sport. After the judo clinic led by Nicolas (IJF), Carol (ZJA) brought together all the participants to talk about their rights, planting seeds in their minds that will allow them to create the conditions for a better life. Some of these young people will perhaps become champions but that is not the goal. What matters is what they will become as people.

Surrounded by all its partners, including the UNHCR, the government and local authorities, as well as with the unwavering support of the IJF, the ZJA is proving that even in difficult conditions, anything is possible, even the best is possible. The outward journey was long but the destination was worthy. The return trip will be just as l difficult but it will be marked by the happiness of having shared the essentials, while dozens of children will have beautiful memories to keep safe forever.

See also