The Dzaleka refugee camp is located not far from Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. For years, the refugee camp has been running a judo peace program called “Hope Judo”, offering refugees the possibility to practice judo on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted most sports around the world. Likewise, the disaster affected JFP’s activities in Malawi and refugees were unable to enjoy the sport.
That is why the digital project “Judo Connect”, implemented simultaneously in Malawi, RSA, Zambia and Zimbabwe, uses the Internet to connect refugees as a result of the collaboration between the International Judo Federation and UNHCR, and is supported by the following parties. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was born.
“The program has been successful because it helps our refugees learn and share their best practices using modern technology. Several events were scheduled using Zoom meetings, connecting dojos in Malawi, Zambia, RSA and Zimbabwe,” explained Osbourne Banda, Secretary General of the Judo Association of Malawi (JAM).
On April 16, 2022, JAM organized a short but powerful event to officially conclude the first phase of the Dzaleka Refugee Camp Digital Project.
“40 judo athletes from Dzaleka organized a judo performance to celebrate the success of this unique event,‘ said Banda.
Guests invited to the event included parents, local chiefs and members from the Kamuzu Sports Academy in Lilongwe.
At the event, Mr Bonface Balenga, representing the participants, thanked the Malawi Judo Association, UNHCR and IJF for supporting the programme despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the challenges refugees face due to economic turmoil,”In addition to COVID-19, another major challenge affecting JFP’s program is food shortages, which require urgent attention.“
Mrs Cecile Pango, representing the chief, also highlighted the impact of the JFP on the Dzaleka refugee camp,”The Judo Peace Program is one of the most active and active programs helping to unite people of different nationalities in the camp.“
The event was officially closed by retired captain John Kaputa, President of the Malawi Judo Association and Secretary General of the Malawi Olympic Committee. “I would like to thank the Government of Malawi, the International Joint Force, UNHCR and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Japanese Embassy and the Malawi Olympic Committee for their support of this unique project.President Kaputa called on all partners to provide more support so that the JFP program can continue to transform the lives of refugees.
Becoming a refugee is difficult, and the situation of millions of people around the world is greatly affected by war, conflict and social dislocation. Judo has the power to put a smile on the faces of many young people. Despite the additional challenges posed by the pandemic, the Judo Connect program has the power to change the minds of the most desperate. This is the first step, and there will be more in the future.