Play2Remember is an annual football festival tournament with a social goal; to remember genocide survivors while promoting reconciliation and togetherness through sport. Established in 2014 by Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU) in collaboration with several community outreach groups and their supporters, Play2Remember provides a chance for survivors of genocide and mass atrocities, to get together in a spirit of commemoration and hope.
London Play2Remember The fourth annual renewal of London Play2Remember took place on April 15th, 2018. Football for Hope Peace and Unity (FHPU, now part of the Ishami Foundation) once again partnered with Waging Peace, to bring together over 300 people celebrating diversity, equality, and peace building. We were also joined by Football4Peace volunteers from The University of Brighton who demonstrated their values based coaching methods promoting peace-building techniques through football and participated in the event as referees. Together, we continue to celebrate survivors, and to remember both the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the genocide in Darfur, now entering its 16th year, and other ongoing human rights violations in Sudan.
This year we were privileged to be joined by a local community team from Grenfell Tower, less than one mile from our venue, where 71 people lost their lives in a fire less than a year ago. Many of the people living in Grenfell were migrants who came to the UK believing it to be a place that would offer sanctuary. Local and national media came to see how we use sport as a tool to raise awareness of mass atrocities and to unite diverse communities.
Local MP, Emma Dent Coad, commended our work in celebrating survivors and working as a diverse collective; something she hoped the UK Parliament would be able to emulate. She reminded our young participants that they are the future leaders she would like to see in Government if we are to achieve the progressive social changes we desire. As well as making new friends from Grenfell we also reconnected with old friends from Sudan, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and other Nazi-persecuted groups. In addition to survivors of atrocities, our event continues to draw annual support from our colleagues across a range of humanitarian agencies, legal aid providers, charities, social justice movements and policy advocates.
At the outset of this year’s event the captain from each team stepped into the centre circle to introduce their team and play down any expectations regarding their footballing ability! Teams were a mix of young and old, male and female, ex-professional athletes and those who wished they’d spent more time training. Football4Peace volunteers led a warm-up with exercises designed to foster fair play interaction as teams and players got to know each other.
Play2Remember is designed to create a sociable space for camaraderie and fun where people can share, and learn from each other’s stories, in a way that promotes togetherness and collective social action. Rwanda Play2Remember The 4th annual renewal of Play2Remember Rwanda took place between the May 20th and May 27th 2018. This year’s event was hosted across two locations in Rwanda.
The Togetherness Cooperative Centre in Ruhashya Cell, Ndera Sector, Gasabo district, Kigali City and The Gihisi Centre in Kavumu Cell, Busasamana Sector, Nyanza district in Southern province of Rwanda. In total 500 Rwandan male and female youth participants spread across three age groups; (Under 12 years, 12- 15 years, and 15 years and above) took part in the Play2Remember events in Kigali and Nyanza where they players gathered and they played various social impact football games promoting the values of unity, conflict prevention and peace building. Both in Kigali and Nyanza the social impact games were led by 8 Community Impact Coaches (Viateur Uwitonze, Evariste Habimana, Didier Bana, Tumutoneshe Diane, Iragena Oscarie, Mbungira Ismail, Minko Osman and Eric E Murangwa) with further support provided by the coaches of the youth teams in attendance.
Two short football matches followed the social impact games and the events finished with all those in attendance gathering in the community hall for messages, celebration (sharing food and drinks) and an awards ceremony for the participants. During the celebration FHPU Founder and Executive Managing Officer Eric Murangwa Eugene briefly explained how sport saved his life during the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Murangwa shared his personal experience and gave a first-hand account outlining how miserable it is to have conflict divide communities and nations and explained how sport has the power to stop conflict, violence and segregation. “If we work together with this mindset we shall make it; no genocide again in Rwanda and wherever our voice and activities will reach in the world”. After his message, he awarded all participants a certificate, as well as sports equipment (balls and kits) for all centres that participated. Evaluating Play2Remember The goal of the day will always be to unite communities and inspire active citizens to help build peace and understanding within divided communities.
The success of our efforts in both London and Rwanda is evident from the feedback we collect from participants after they’ve had time to reflect on the day’s activities. As one London participant commented: “Play to Remember was a great way to spend a Saturday – a wonderful occasion where people from all walks of life and all around the world came together to celebrate peace and unity through a shared love of football. We evaluated the London Play2Remember event with an online questionnaire. Responses were very positive with all participants saying they found the event enjoyable and meaningful and most being motivated to attend both for the football and in order to encounter other survivors and people working with survivors.
Highlights included: “meeting people from all walks of life coming together and sharing their experiences” and “a huge sense of togetherness – a joined up feeling of a common goal – freedom and peace”. All agreed the event had a positive effect on the wellbeing of the community and numerous people commented on the good range of teams and press coverage. Following feedback, next year we’ll focus on refining our updates on team progression and making sure we have sufficient time for closing the event. In Rwanda the success of Play2Remember is evident in the praise received from the Nyanza District Division Manager’s (DM) in attendance of the event who emphasized the importance of the social impact games and the messages they deliver to the communities in which the event takes place.
The DM’s recognized the importance of the messages delivered through the social impact games for the Rwandan community and urged that all centres and coaches begin to use the methods pioneered by FHPU in their daily practice. The DM and Youth representative across both locations highlighted to the youth in attendance that the attitudes and values displayed at the Play2Remember event would help them become the best future leaders and role models in Rwanda and concluded with the promise of the district to support future Play2Remember events.
FHPU Founder and Executive Managing Officer Eric Murangwa Eugene had some final thoughts about the success and future goals for Play2Remember: “Organising Play2Remember in the UK and Rwanda epitomised what FHPU stands for – ‘Transforming the Lives Through Football’. Having the opportunity to be directly involved both in London and Rwanda was an important experience for me and for our community impact coaches’ team. This year’s events were arguably the best we have organised since the initiative started four years ago, and it has left us all feeling incredibly optimistic about our belief in using the power of football to promote the understanding of remembrance and raising awareness of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda as well as fighting prejudice, intolerance and hatred at large.
Our next goal is to try and take Play2Remember in other parts of UK and in Rwanda, and I hope we will soon be able to do so by organising Play2Remember in all 5 provinces of Rwanda starting next year for the 25th anniversary of the genocide.” Rwanda Play2Remember was supported by Jigsaw Production Company and our friends and longterm partner; African Road who have displayed invaluable support and belief in our mission to change lives through football by providing vital financial support to help facilitate the logistics of the P2R events throughout Rwanda.
Our special thanks also go to our friends and ambassadors from France, Marie Thomas-Penette and Francois Xavier-Destors who through their collaboration with Lycée Descartes de Lyon were able to facilitate a generous donation of football equipment from PSG’s Women’s Football Team.
We would like to say thank you for the generosity and support for all our supporters and friends. Want to get involved? To ensure the continuation and longevity of our work, your support is needed. We’re seeking funds to support the administration of the event in the UK and the costs of running our sister event in Rwanda. Every year we need to raise at least £6, 000 to run these two events.
In future years we aim to increase the number of participants and further build our network of partners who will be able to use our concept and organise similar events in their communities, schools, universities and other organisations. If you are interested, then please contact The Ishami Foundation CEO, Eric Murangwa Eugene MBE to discuss developing new partnerships on the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.