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A frican children playfully learn to say ‘no’ to abuse.


At the countryside of Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi, a carefree childhood for school children is anything but self-evident. Hard living conditions and bad environmental influences often lead to problems among young people such as leaving school, teenage pregnancies and drug or alcohol abuse. All these things that can be prevented in many cases with the right guidance, positive alternatives and meaningful education.

Join for Joy therefore supports primary schools in these low-income countries with challenging sports and play activities at school. In a playful way, 39,000 children learn to work together and bring out the best in themselves and others. Complemented with lessons in empowerment, awareness and health issues they develop themselves on a physical, mental and socio-emotional level.

Sports and play for a positive behavioural change

The philosophy of ‘SPAT verandert’ emphasizes the same three important levels of development. This well known institute is working with the so-called development triangle that highlights development on a physical, mental and social-emotional level. The following news comes as no surprise in that context: SPAT and Join for Joy are now working together!

How exactly does that help children in Africa?

The Join for Joy Sports and Play Program aims, among other things, to improve the resilience of girls and boys at participating schools. As a result SPAT developed a program that gives the ‘Girls & Boys empowerment’ an extra draft, in the current Sport and Play Program.

The SPAT coaches, with their expertise in resilience, translated this into three carefully selected skills that will be useful to the children in the rest of their lives:

  • Assertiveness
  • Self confidence
  • Respect

Focused on African context and culture

Within the philosophy of Spat and Join for Joy, the exercises in the program all contain a physical, mental and socio-emotional component. They can be infinitely varied, and in order to challenge and stimulate every child as much as possible.

Although the practice-oriented SPAT philosophy is applicable everywhere, since natural human behaviour, shows similarities worldwide. The skills linked exercises in this case are strongly geared to context and culture. This is to increase the applicability in the lives of the children.

Teacher: bridge between school and difficult daily practice.

Within the collaboration between SPAT and Join for Joy, 240 trained teachers at the local schools play a crucial role. The Sports and Play Coordinators from Join for Joy offer the teachers solidly substantiated tools for optimally assessing children’s behaviour. They learn to intercept striking behaviours in game forms and to evaluate this in a professional manner, both in the moment itself and after the exercise. This establishes the link to their daily life.

That works well, because during challenging exercise activities the obstacles that each child faces in individual development inevitably emerge.

A practical example:

Does a child find it difficult to stand up for himself and say ”no”?  With a new game, the teacher provokes assertive behaviour, in which children for example have to defend their own circle for intruders. The reward for desired behaviour is woven into the rules of the game.

But just as important: the teacher then makes the translation to their daily life situation by discussing the displayed behaviour with the child in the context of practical situations. This helps the child to understand that in daily life it must also say ”no” if he or she does not want something at all.

A happier life through better choices

These are the kind of small steps that can radically change the lives of children. For example, they know the difference between using drugs or not, are able to identify and ”say no” to sexual abuse develop the self-esteem to make the choices that will help them succeed in life.

These are the major benefits of the developed program from the partnership of SPAT and Join for Joy.

Official partners announce roll out

In the meantime, the renewed Girls & Boys Empowerment program has had its first try out in Uganda and both, teachers and children, are wildly enthusiastic. The children clearly enjoy the in-depth play forms, which have various other positive effects in addition to improving resilience. For example, the exercises increase the learning curve and energy level of the children, inspire them  to do their best at school and make them aware of important social themes.

Now that the first try-out went to our satisfaction, next month’s major roll out of the exercise program in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi will follow. SPAT thanks Join for Joy for the trust they have given and is proud and grateful that it can convey its philosophy in countries where healthy personal development of children is desperately needed. SPAT and Join for Joy are now official partners and we are looking forward to further working together.