The pandemic took its toll on all of us, but lockdown and school closures were especially tough for many children.
In Latvia’s capital Riga, an initiative called ‘Risk Free’, aims to introduce a host of sporting activities, such as one known as Ghetto Games, which are helping young people bounce back.
In addition to the obvious physical and mental health benefits, the initiative’s street culture aims to attract and support youngsters from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Antons Semeņaks, is the event organiser for Ghetto Games,
“Ghetto Games is a youth movement. It’s a platform for youth, where to develop physically and morally, where they can spend their spare time doing different physical activities, basketball, floorball, football, whatever, it’s a perfect place to be for youth!”
While Ghetto Games is an indivdual community initiative, it is part of a wider European Union project, called ‘Risk-Free’, which helps communities in many ways, harnessing sport to transform young people’s lives for the better. For example In Latvia’s second biggest city Daugavpils, the Risk-Free project, has put in place exercise equipment in several areas.
Those behind Risk-Free, say it’s been a catalyst for positive social change. The project was financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The money has helped transform 36 indoor and outdoor locations in both Latvia and Lithuania.
In addition to infrastructure, the funding also provided specialist sports training for children, as well as sports equipment. Improving local amenities, many of which are in disadvantaged areas, and then combining that with training and events like Ghetto Games – can, organisers say, go a long way to putting young people on the right path, making a positive difference, both for them and their communities.