The Latvian Floorball Union (LFU) launched a charity project in March 2019, in order to give children and adolescents living in orphanages the opportunity to engage in sports activities and attend various sports events. In Latvia, more than 800 young people are staying in orphanages, care institutions and crisis centers, in most cases without a supportive family to create an interest in sport. When young people from orphanages spend time with the federation and club peers, they not only develop physical capabilities but also can demonstrate such qualities as courage, skills to cope with challenges, positive vigorousness and develop new friendships together. In order to collect funds for the involvement of children in sport, the charity “Sport Unites” brings together LFU, the public benefit organisation “Butterfly Effect” and the long-term partner of the federation – Latvian food distribution brand “ELVI”.

Young people with disabilities enjoy #BeActive Beach Games in Lucavsala
Children and adolescents from orphanages throughout Latvia for the first time, within the project, were introduced to floorball in the ELVI Floorball league championship final in April 2019, which is the year’s most anticipated floorball event in Latvia. The young people not only watched the game but also participated in the tour of Latvian arena “Arena Riga”, enjoying pizzas and sweets in the arena’s backstage.

Later, during the first #BeActive Beach Games, which took place in Kipsala Beach in Riga in August, 30 young people from two orphanages and care institutions in Riga took part in multiple competitions, testing their strength in different floorball challenges, relay events and participated in team games. The participants competed with each other and also played together with experienced floorball players.

During the day, adolescents demonstrated a strong competitive spirit, which was reflected in scoring multiple goals and in developing solidarity and communicating between each other. It was great to see that young people from orphanages with reduced mobility were also actively involved in the competition and achieved high accomplishments. It alone proves that sport is able to unite and motivate anyone who wants it.

“Sport for young people is an important part of life, not only keeping their physical form but also helping to shape their personality. Sport can be healing and motivating for those who have been without the safety feeling which is usually provided by a family. It helps to find friends outside the orphanage environment, helps to discharge anger and the sense of injustice and helps to develop ambition and faith in themselves. Therefore, I am really pleased with this project, which provides this targeted support for children and young people who need it,” emphasizes Ilvis Petersons, president of the Latvian Floorball Union.

To succeed, find a knowledgeable partner
At both events, youngsters were invited by sending invitation letters to all non-family institutions in Latvia. However, one important success factor of the project was the choice of partners – the experience of the Society “Butterfly Effect” over several years in working with non-family institutions in Latvia has ensured that support for young people is important and necessary. They always ensure that the right audience has been reached and that the response from the non-family institutions in Latvia is truly great.

Precise planning prior to each event is crucial by identifying the age, number of participants, the specific needs of youngsters, if any, as well as information on accompanying persons. The Beach Games event provided transport to and from the event because children had no chance of getting to the venue independently.

Such events always provide feedback to assess what has been good, what details may need to be taken into account in the future, particularly when young people with special needs have been involved. In the past, the feedback of the headteachers of the institutions and the accompanying parties has been positive, with a high assessment of the meaning of the project and the possibility of enlightening the daily lives of young people.

The aim of the project is to improve the day-to-day lives for young people who have been left without parental care due to individual circumstances. It is the responsibility of our whole society to help them integrate into society, to create equal opportunities for fully meaningful life and the feeling that each of them can be a champion,” highlights Ilvis Petersons, president of the LFU.

The sport goes to all
The events planned at the next stage of the “Sports Unites” project will include representatives of the Latvian Floorball Union visiting the young people to organise sport days at institutional premises, because for a variety of reasons some children cannot leave the institutions for events or competitions. Outward events would provide an opportunity to engage in sports activities for those youngsters who did not have such opportunities until then.