The Association THE PEACEFIGHTERS will step into a ring for the UN international day of peace at the UN HQ Plaza in Geneva!
The Association was formally launched at the UNICEF European HQ in Geneva on 17 April 2008, though the work has been going on for more than 20 years. The launch was welcomed by President Mary McAleese, members of the diplomatic community, including the British Ambassador, Swiss dignitaries, and many others. The Peacefighters was set up with the aim of promoting peace and respect, through sport.
It brings together interested parties in martial arts and combat sports, in Switzerland, and abroad (particularly UK and Ireland). It organises inter-community meetings, and international events (competitions, training, courses, trips, demonstrations etc). The Association particularly focuses its activities for the benefit of disadvantaged children, teens and young adults.
The Association is the brainchild of Carl Emery (Switzerland), former World Champion in Kickboxing and Billy Murray (Northern Ireland), 4 times former world champion in Kickboxing, and a well-known face on the Northern Ireland and international sporting scene. Both have recognised that one of the best ways to promote understanding is to give children from all walks of life the opportunity to interact and to respect each other through sport, and they’ve been working actively in this field for over 20 years.
The Peacefighters was formally born out of a trip organised to Switzerland in October 2006, and grew out of the work in Northern Ireland, which sees children from all sides of the community, the Falls and Shankill, working together, competing and expanding their horizons. The trip to Villars resulted from months of fundraising by the children and their families to help make the dream of heading abroad a reality.
“It was a brilliant thing to witness,” said ProKick head coach Billy Murray. “For many of these kids – all of whom are aged between 6-12 years old – this was their first time on a plane and their first trip abroad. They were selected on merit and it was down to the dedication of the children and their families that we were able to take so many of them to the centre of Europe, Switzerland. The sport receives no funding in Northern Ireland, unlike in other European countries, and the only way to give these children such a wonderful opportunity was to fundraise ourselves.”
Mrs. Susan Gregory, UK Consul General, travelled from Geneva to watch the youngsters in action. She said from the ringside in Villars, “This is a great thing to witness. Children from all walks of life, involved in a sport that is steeped in respect for your opponent. I was particularly impressed in how committed the coaches and everyone involved were, to make events like this a success. I’m leaving here tonight with a different perception of the sport of kickboxing. It’s a great sport for young and old alike.’
In Billy’s words ‘we offer a way to get kids active, to get them off their sofas and to enjoy running around and jumping about. It teaches self-discipline and self-respect. It combats bullying. It’s an amazing tool for bringing kids out of themselves. It’s a real growth sport amongst the young of Northern Ireland. For some, it’s about having fun, for some it’s about taking first steps towards a ring career. We have a space for everyone.’
The Peacefigthers have not stood still. Since the launch, and the first tournament, there have been many additional activities, including teaching free seminars for disadvantaged children in the Caribbean, and presenting equipment to schools, with the support of the Ministry of Education in Barbados (in 2007, 2008 and 2009); two events in Belfast, and across the border in Galway and Waterford; further training camps in Switzerland (5 already in the last couple of years); teaching martial arts to ‘out of control’ kids, with the cooperation of social service, Geneva; fundraising for major surgery for the Esperanza Foundation (for Niger), and for the Jean-Marc Tonus initiative); support for disadvantaged children from Northern Ireland to participate in a major martial arts sporting event in Busan, Korea (Nov 2009).
In 2010 many activities have already taken place, and more are planned. These include teaching kickboxing for overweight and disabled children (4 classes a week in co-operation with www.sportsmile.ch). There are plans to send children to tournaments in the USA, and to provide seminars and coaching for socially troubled children in France, Belo Horizonte Brazil, and in Paramaribo Surinam.
During the year off over twenty team members will be travelling to Japan to train with, and compete with, a select Japanese squad. Some of the teens and young adults on this trip have never travelled on a plane before, nor would this dream ever have been realised without the continuing interest of the Peacefighters to bring people together, whatever their background, and social circumstances.
The Association is now hoping to take this to the next level, by further promoting peace through sport, by offering opportunities for children and young adults to learn about themselves, and about others. And, above all to help promote understanding and respect between communities, and nations.
Carl Emery and Billy Murray and all the Peacefighters are waiting for you at the UN Plaza September 21st 2010 from 4 to 6 PM. All are welcome
website : THE PEACE FIGHTERS