Placing mental health at the forefront of the global football for development agenda
By Nasser Al Khori, Generation Amazing Programmes Director
Football is considered a force for good as it has the power to transform both individual lives and entire communities through well-designed social interventions, evaluated effectively and delivered to support learning and growth. As we focus on mental health awareness on World Mental Health Day 2021, I would like to highlight Generation Amazing’s organisational resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped build and support the psychological resilience of its beneficiaries both locally and globally. Resilience relates to the ability to cope with crises or changing environmental settings.
At the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, similar to other football for development organisations across the world, our face-to-face activities were brought to a halt due to various levels of lockdowns. Our organisational resilience was demonstrated by how Generation Amazing was able to quickly adapt, learn and acquire new approaches to re-engage and interact with our programme beneficiaries via digital means.
For example, our award-winning Generation Amazing Live online campaign quickly re-connected with young people globally, replacing our in-person sessions with digital content. Furthermore, our Youth Festival in 2020 was delivered digitally, showcasing our capabilities to respond to the evolving disruptions caused by the pandemic. Just as organisations need to respond to changing environmental conditions, individuals and communities equally need to demonstrate resilience to cope with crisis in life.
The lessons of organisational resilience extend further to the agile response we took to support a different form of resilience: psychological resilience. As the world observed the unfolding of events in Afghanistan, the State of Qatar responded quickly, supporting the evacuation to safety of Afghan people whose lives were at risk. Generation Amazing has since been at the frontline, helping the Afghan evacuees to rebuild their lives within new social settings, using football as part of the package of quality services for community engagement and participation. Such active citizenship is vital for mental well-being both during and after a crisis.
Generation Amazing continues to be part of a group of state and non-state actors who have co-designed and co-produced a package of integrated services to support the psychological, emotional and social well-being of Afghan evacuees in Doha. Football is core to the activities aimed at providing a distraction or escape from the stressful and traumatic events they experienced.
Working collaboratively with key partners such as Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qatar Foundation and Maktaba Children’s Library, we have endeavored to bring the best possible learning experience through more than 420 educational workshops delivered to date. The integrated services consist of a wide variety of daily sessions including reading, arts, music, STEM, language classes, mindfulness, yoga and dance. These activities are aligned to a needs assessment as well as partner organisation’s capabilities to response to the identified requirements.
Sport and physical activity have a key role to play in mental health support services. As Generation Amazing aspires to reach 1 million youth by 2022, we aim to place mental health at the forefront of the global football for development agenda.