Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Author's note: I met Matthew Cimone during the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I had volunteered with Right To Play TV. During my four days working with Right To Play I was enlightened by Matthew's story and his experience working overseas. I had to document it.
By Jane Victoria King
We take so much for granted. We turn on a tap. Water flows out. We get in our car to go somewhere. There is a road. When we get low on fuel. We go to a gas station. When a child cries out for more. We provide. Because we can.
Matthew Cimone thought he was prepared when he went overseas for his field experience with Right To Play. Part of his International Development Program at the University of Toronto. He would first visit Northern Uganda. Then the war scarred Sierra Leone.
He had no idea at the time, that his experience with Right To Play would pave the way for his future.
“I owe a lot of my success to the organization,” he states.
While in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, he worked with community-based organizations formed by local people who had lived through the war. These local leaders were helping to rebuild the city. The children, some exploited as child soldiers during the 10 years of conflict, had become known as the Lost Generation.
So how does a community ravaged by years of war heal?
You can chase away the ghosts of war by empowering the children of conflict with the power of sport and play.
“Sport is a peace building tool,” explains Matthew.
When asked what experience had the most impact on him, he talked about what one young man, probably 17 years-old had told him when Matthew asked him the following: “Has sport made an impact with healing your communities after the war?”
The young adult explained how his family was killed during the war. He was kidnapped to fight. But he escaped. Years later, he joined the soccer team.
“I recognized the man that killed my family,” he said.
He pointed to the man across the field from him. They were playing soccer together.
Matthew came home. He had a thesis to write. But first he went on a motivational speaking tour. He visited 101 high schools and shared social justice stories. He enlightened over 45,000 students.
“I didn’t learn enough about it when I was in high school,” he said.
Soon after, Fostering Global Citizenship in Young People became the thesis.
A further result of his work with Right To Play, and considered one of his largest successes was being nominated as one of two Canadian Goodwill Youth Ambassadors to the United Nations on behalf of Right To Play. Through the UN Office of Sport Development and Peace.
But the work he left overseas was not finished. While Matthew left knowing the strength of Right To Play would continue, other grass roots groups didn’t have that type of on-going support.
He’s recently formed a charitable start-up organization called Esther’s Echo. Named after a woman named Esther whom he met in Sierra Leone. In Freetown, Esther took care of 40 young girls through a school she formed. Matthew’s organization has been formed to assist community leaders like Esther, by profiling the work of these grassroots initiatives on the Internet so online donors can send support directly.
I reflected on what Matthew had told me. When I looked up Global Citizenship in Wikipedia, I came across this quote:
“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” By Thomas Paine, Rights of Man.
Thank you Right To Play. Thank you, Matthew. That’s Global Citizenship, plus one.
Please visit Right To Play to learn more of their commendable work in the World today www.righttoplaytv.com