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Monday, May 21, 2012

Playing for keeps

For a long time Mehroze Kiyani wondered how he could help the young people of Abbotabad who had lost their way and were leading aimless lives. His biggest wish was to help young people who had turned to drugs and crime in their despair. But Mehroze is not a person who only wishes for good in his society; he is actually a doer. Mehroze got in touch with individuals at the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) – a partner organization of the British Council who invited him to participate in their next Active Citizens capacity building workshop.

According to Mehroze this was a turning point in his life: “I came to realize that young people living in any country are capable of bringing a remarkable change (in their societies)”. A key feature of the Active Citizens training programme is its flexible and adaptable structure. Taking advantage of this flexibility Mehroze chose an often overlooked aspect of society for his social action project: sports.

 But Mehroze did not pick any popular sport for his project, no he wanted to connect with young people on a physical as a well as an emotional level. He decided to work with traditional sports that used to be popular in the Abbotabad area; sports, which sadly had been ignored for many years. On being asked why he chose to base his Social Action Project (SAP) on sports, Mehroze said: “I think that involving young people in healthy physical activity is an effective way to keep them on the right track – and away from despair and antisocial behaviour”. Besides, adds Mehroze: “this is also a way to get in touch with a forgotten dimension of our culture”.
Mehroze enlisted the help of a few friends to help him research these cultural sports, help organize training camps, and promote them. Together they identified a sport that tested endurance and strength of athletes who had to lift small boulders (بُتکر بازی) and move them to a certain point. The beauty of this social action project was that Mehroze did not have to invest any money for sports equipment; all he needed was rocks of a suitable size and the right location out in the open.
Experts in the local sport were invited from the union council who advised the young participants on how to play according to the correct rules, regulations, and what safety precautions they should follow. Once the training camp was over, a tournament was organised. The tournament was a success with a better turnout than was expected by Mehroze. The winner was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 500.
Mehroze and his friends now plan to organize more training camps and contests for other traditional games. The youth group is pleased to see that young people of the area have embraced بُتکر بازی as a recreational activity. Mehroze talks about his social action project fondly and discussing its effects on the young people of his area remarks: “although my social action project is not a quick fix to the problems that local young people face, but it’s a start. After all, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”