Building peace through . . . rugby?

Day 2 of Session 1 of Peacebuilders Camp 2019 has been a day to remember! Our focus today was on Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which tells us that everyone has the right to rest and leisure. Not much resting went on today, but we did think about why the right to leisure is important, and who might lack access to that right. And we heard from some experts about how leisure in the form of sports, and in particular the sport of rugby, has been life-changing for them.

Our guests were Phaidra Knight, USA Rugby’s 2010 Player of the Decade and Bob Lujano, 2004 Paralympic medalist in quad rugby. They joined us at Koinonia in the morning to meet our campers and tell their stories of how they became involved in rugby, after being excluded from other sports because of gender or disability. They each shared how their current work pushes wider and wider the circle of who can be included in sport. Phaidra’s efforts to honor the right to all people to participate in sports have led her to teach rugby to incarcerated youth and others; Bob’s role at the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham supports athletes with a wide range of disabilities. As they both graciously answered question after question from our insightful campers, it also became clear what great role models they are, and how well they demonstrate inclusivity, passion, and determination on and off the rugby pitch or court.

Phaidra with attentive listeners Silver and Bouchra

Bob and Phaidra accompanied us to Georgia Southwest State University’s gym for some active learning and fun! They ran Team Phaidra and Team Bob through various drills and relays, a raucous game of capture the flag, and 4 on 4 matches that brought out the competitive spirit of campers and counselors alike.

Listening to instructions for the next game

Bouchra and Amir race for their teams

Team Bob gets some pointers
Caelie and José jump for the tip-off

After two hours of hard play, we all enjoyed lunch together at GSW’s dining hall, where Phaidra surprised all the campers (and staff!) with a promise to send a signed rugby ball for each person.

We are so grateful that these two gifted athletes gifted us with their stories, wisdom, and time. Their gift will certainly multiply as new insights shape our campers’ understanding of the power of sports and the power of inclusivity. As one camper reflected, “I never saw sports as welcoming before!”

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