In October 2019, Terre des hommes (Tdh) launched a unique European project, aimed at promoting child safeguarding policies in sports settings in Romania and Greece, as a means to protect and safeguard children. Through this project, Tdh has committed to make sure that children and young people benefit from special safeguarding policies when practicing various sports. This is how the project activities began and how they evolved.
The project implementation started with a research on child safeguarding systems in targeted sports federations, clubs and summer camps, that tried to measure the knowledge, attitudes and practices of professionals in contact with children in these sports settings.
Thus, in Greece, Tdh Hellas met with representatives from more than 20 summer camps and sport clubs in order to discuss the challenges faced by the staff in ensuring the protection of children. They also aimed to better understand the strengths of the context in safeguarding children. Both in Romania and Greece, interviews and focus groups have been organized with more than 35 specialists and young people in each country. The targeted specialists and youth are active in football and gymnastic clubs from Bucharest or in other parts of Romania, or engaged with summer camp and sport activities in Greece. The baseline report will inform the further capacity buildings activities and awareness raising.
In Romania, Tdh has signed partnerships with the Romanian Football and Gymnastics Federations and organized a press conference for launching the project in October 2019. Everyone expressed their belief in the project vision and their willingness to join efforts and contribute to improve the standards of child safeguards in sport.
Razvan Burleanu, president of the Romanian Football Federation said: “" am glad that the Romanian Football Federation is part of the project. We see football as a social phenomenon, and the role of a federation is not only to train, but also to regulate. There are 200.000 children and adolescents who play football; therefore the magnitude of this phenomenon forces us to commit to this project too, in order to guarantee their safety".
Virginia Oprisan, (at the time) General Secretary of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, mentioned: "We have committed to this project, as it corresponds to our wish to change mentalities – performance sports are work, but also joy. The safety of children in gymnastics is even more important, because for us, performance starts in the early years. Yes, there have been certain problems in gymnastics and that is why we want our coaches and athletes to benefit from support. We are looking forward to developing together the support materials to prevent such situations".
As a representative of the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption, Cristina Cuculas (Head of Service) also added: "We appreciate that this project, along the training of professionals, involves consultations with children. We are glad to be part of this innovative project, because sports are a reason for joy, even pride, but only if we make sure that these children are safe".
Athletes Larisa Iordache and Nana Falemi have made us the honor to become the ambassadors of the Keeping Children Safe in Sports project in Romania and have committed to sharing our messages. "An athlete needs to know that they can rely on someone, especially when they feel down, for various reasons. Children should enjoy sports, otherwise you cannot do this work", said Larisa Iordache, Olympic gymnast and ambassador of "Keeping children safe in sports" project. Nana Falemi, coach, football player and ambassador of the project, also mentioned: "Only by building a trustful relationship, you can expect and achieve high performance. I am joining the project in order to inspire the people to ensure a friendly environment for children who play football. I remember that in my childhood we felt at home on the football field and this should always be the feeling that children have."
Tdh Romania invites other federations and sports organizations to join the project, in order to make sure that children's rights are respected in any sport context in Romania. In the near future a series of activities will be organised in order to train specialists in sports on the topic of child protection. We invite you to follow the CHildHub calendar of webinars and the Facebook pages of Terre des hommes for updates.
The “Keeping Children Safe in Sports” project, coordinated by Tdh Romania and implemented in partnership with Tdh Hellas and Tdh Hungary is funded by “Rights, Citizenship and Equality” Program of the European Union and it is undergoing until September 2021.