What worries you?
This is the question that Ashoka Fellow Dina Buchbinder of Mexico begins all of her sessions with, regardless of whether her audience is an established group of funders or eight-year-old indigenous children from northern Mexico. She asks because she knows that people of all ages, regardless of background, are universally concerned with social issues such as hunger, poverty and equality. She asks because she sees that every person has the powerful ability to create positive change.
As the founder of Deportes para Compartir (Sports for Sharing) Dina uses the power of play to engage children throughout Mexico in experiential learning. Through games that emphasize equality, teamwork, and leadership, play and cultural exchange, students learn about the Millennium Development Goals, as well as key social issues affecting their own and other communities.
“For us, games are a very powerful vehicle to translate the most abstract concepts and civic values that we’re always talking about into action and make them tangible for students,” says Dina. “
Having operated Deportes para Compartir throughout Mexico for the past seven years and now beginning to scale internationally, Dina is realizing her dream of forming better citizens from childhood.
“Usually, people think of children as sweet,” says Dina, “and they are sweet, but they’re also really smart and they come up with the best ideas, questions and comments that I have ever seen. It’s really powerful to give children a voice and get them involved in social challenges because they have a lot to contribute.”
Having worked in 22 out of 32 states in Mexico, in contexts as varied as urban private schools to indigenous mountain villages, Dina strongly believes in engaging entire communities in global problem solving.
“When people discover they can play a role in solving problems in their communities, their country, or even their world, they start behaving differently. They begin to see themselves as changemakers, and their attitudes change in a really positive way.”
Engaging entire communities enables all citizens, parents, teachers and students to engage in and solve societal problems. By showing tangibly that everyone has a valued opinion and can make a difference, much bigger change can be achieved.
According to Dina, “If we have children that choose fair play over cheating, that choose team work over doing everything on their own, that choose empathy over indifference, we will have created a new kind of citizen, capable of affecting transformational change.’
It is exactly this kind of change that will create a lasting and powerful effect on this world.