Promoting teamwork and cooperation at the Unity Games

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On March 28, Student Life and Community Experience (SLCE) and the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences will be hosting the Unity Games from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Ian Beddis Gymnasium.
The Unity Games will bring together over 100 children from elementary schools around the Niagara region to play and participate in a variety of different games while promoting positive life skills.
In partnership with the Niagara Children’s Centre, YMCA, RAFT Niagara and the United Way, students and volunteers will help advocate traits such as teamwork, cooperation and fair play, engaging the children in healthy, active games.

“We provide underprivileged children from around the region the chance to go to Brock and do something positive and fun,” said Erica Dugas, a Masters of Arts candidate and organizer of the event.
“We try and focus on a theme with each Unity Games. This year it’s peace. With a lot of negative things happening around the world right now, we thought a great way to encourage peacefulness within the youths would be through sport and play.”

Team activities such as basketball, hockey and soccer, are notably absent from the event. This is because the activities featured at the Unity Games have been strategically included in order to engage participants with more direct team building exercises. Activities like the human knot and untraditional relay races give children the opportunity to work with each other collaboratively towards a collective goal, without the worry of a few students dominating the activity.

“During the games we try and emphasize physical literacy, which is having the cognizance and confidence to participate in all games. We want to teach children a variety of skills so that they can be selective about the activities they do throughout their lives and aren’t stuck doing the one physical activity they already know how to do,” said Dugas.

The initiative is the brainchild of Dr. James Mandigo, Professor and Interim Dean of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. He created the program in 2006 after visiting places such as El Salvador and the British Virgin Islands, where he saw the positive influence of sport and play as a way to promote healthy life choices among impoverished youth. He has since taken Brock students from the PEKN program back to El Salvador to promote this physically active, healthy lifestyle.

“When we were down there, we went to a bunch of different schools and ran our own mini Unity Games for each that we visited,” said Joseph Good, a fifth-year Concurrent Education student who went to El Salvador in 2013 with Mandigo.

“The kids in El Salvador absolutely loved it. They enjoyed having the opportunity to play new games together and cooperate with fun.”

“It is a great experience to see the benefit that it has on children,” said Dugas, who also went to El Salvador with Brock. “We have children that have been through the program come back as adolescents to help out the younger ones, that’s the kind of positive impact we want to have.”

The Unity Games committee are still looking for volunteers. If you are interested in participating, sign up by emailing Colleen McGuire at cmcguire@brocku.ca

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