Today is the third annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) and it is definitely something to celebrate!
A few years ago, as I became more and more involved in the parkour community and I began traveling and meeting athletes from around the world, I started to recognize the profoundly positive impact parkour has on its practitioners. I started to collect these stories…
A young man in the Caribbean who used to be an angry teenager prone to violence, but since training parkour had become a much more positive and healthy person.
A young woman whose parkour journey helped her find joy again after the death of a close friend.
A group of young women in Iran, empowered by the freedom of movement and self-expression found in parkour training. Women who continue to train despite the cultural restrictions they face in this pursuit.
Young men in Pakistan who never would have interacted coming from diverse ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but who were able to see past their differences and keep themselves out of trouble through their parkour training.
Young men in Gaza who find freedom through parkour, bringing joy to their friends and neighbors who enjoy watching them play. They maintain hope for a better future as they jump, flip, and tumble around.
There are countless more examples I’ve found, through news stories and personal accounts, of parkour improving people’s lives and bringing people together, particularly in areas divided by conflict. I have seen examples of this throughout the Middle East, in China, Eurasia, and more.
As I collected these stories and neared the end of my Master’s program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution last spring, I saw an Instagram post with one of parkour’s founding fathers, David Belle. He was holding a #WhiteCard in his support of this International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (6 April). This was the first time I heard about this International Day and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about such an academic and professional topic. I realized that the UN has an Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and that there was a whole field of people who shared my passion for both peace-building and sport. This is it, I thought. This is the ultimate combination of the two things I am most passionate about.
I will continue pursuing this passion, and hope to find a place for parkour in the larger field of Sport for Development and Peace. In the meantime, let’s celebrate all of the positive ways it has already helped people around the world.
Share your story. Go outside and play. Lead a class for your local community to share parkour with others (or to share another sport/physical discipline that brings you joy).
Join the conversation on social media by posting a picture of you holding a #WhiteCard to show your support for #IDSDP.
Lastly, if you’re interested in parkour & peace-building, send me a message! I’d love to talk to you and share ideas.