World Recognizes a New Day for Play

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When I think about the power of sport and play to transform children's lives and change our world, I think about kids like Daphine.

At 15 years old, if you ask Daphine what she wants to be when she grows up, she will tell you: the president of Uganda.

Daphine lives in a slum community in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Leadership has not been a lifelong ambition. Growing up surrounded by poverty, health threats like HIV and AIDS, and tensions born from decades of civil unrest, Daphine's parents say as a young child she was shy and unmotivated, with little interest in school and definitely no plans to run the country.

What changed?

Daphine was introduced to a new way of learning.

Ten years ago, when Daphine started participating in Right To Play programs, they were based on the simple idea that children learn best when they are engaged and having fun -- so why not use play-based activities, games and sports to teach them?

A decade later, it's still a simple idea, but it has evolved into a global movement, and on April 6 the world will celebrate the first International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Since beginning Right To Play in 2000, we have been fighting for sport and play to be recognized as effective tools to promote education, health and peace by the international community.

Through sport and play we are investing in children. We are teaching them how to protect themselves from disease, encouraging them to stay in school, and helping them learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. Play is strengthening communities by creating the next generation of leaders -- like Daphine.

The United Nations General Assembly's declaration of an annual day to celebrate and advocate for the power of play is a true milestone. Not only is it a testament to the movement, but even more, the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is a testament to children like Daphine and their potential to improve our world.

All it takes is one child to influence an entire community -- or in some cases, an entire country.


Johann Koss is Founder, President and CEO of Right To Play -- a global organization that uses the transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity. Right To Play reaches one million children across more than 20 countries through regular weekly sport and play activities that help build essential life skills and better futures, while driving lasting social change. Visit

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