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The game of soccer is restoring childhoods and helping to build a sense of community and peace in one the most conflict-ridden and under-developed districts of India reports Video Volunteers Community Correspondent, Kamei Mercy.
“Education and healthcare are essential,” says Ms. Mercy. “But there is something more about a game of football. Your playmates are your first idea of community. In getting the children to play sports, the Manipuri Alliance for Child Rights is doing a great job restoring their childhoods and fostering a sense of community among the future citizens of Manipur.”
The Chandel district of Manipur state in North East India was named one of the 250 most backward districts in India in 2006. Poverty, unemployment and malnourishment are rife. There are no proper healthcare facilities or schools. Since the 1990s, a civil strife among two resident tribes – the Nagas and the Kukis – has caused much bloodshed. Children are the most vulnerable.
Sports for peace is an initiative of the Manipuri Alliance for Child Rights. It was conceived as an effort to restore lost childhoods and to help those afflicted heal from the traumas of war. Every evening, children of various tribes who have been displaced by the war come together to play what has been called ‘that beautiful game’; football in India, soccer in the United States.
Like Ms. Mercy, who came of age when the conflict was at its bloodiest, most children come from families broken by the war. A witness to violence in her childhood, she has since been working towards building peace as an activist and journalist, producing a “Video Volunteers” video to document this community-building endeavor.
“The mainstream media only reports on the violence in this region,” she says. “But for me, stories like the children coming together from different tribes and playing together are not only more personal, but more important. It is not like we are all up in arms and at each other’s throats! Most of the people I know are working constructively towards restoring peace. As a Community Correspondent, it is my responsibility to give them and their good work a platform,” she adds.
Kamei Mercy is part of IndiaUnheard, a news feature service launched by international community media organization Video Volunteers. The IndiaUnheard feature aims to give a platform to the stories and concerns of marginalized communities across India. It has a special focus on conflict zones where young committed activists like Mercy are bringing to light stories of hopes and lives that have so far gone unheard.