Mathare youth wins global peacekeeping award

MYSA Executive Director Peter Karanja receives the award from Search for Common Ground Founder/President John Marks at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington. Photo credit: SFCG


By Play the Game
The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) won a 2010 Common Ground Award for its innovative community and peace building programmes with youth in the Mathare slums, with young refugees in the Kakuma Camp in northwest Kenya, with demobilized child soldiers in Rumbek in southern Sudan and with youth in other poor urban and rural communities in East Africa and Botswana.

The award was received by MYSA Executive Director Peter Karanja at a special ceremony on November 11th hosted by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, USA. Also at the awards ceremony were former MYSA leaders and alumni now working with youth organizations in the USA like Maurice Njoroge, a former MYSA Director, and Pius Obala.
The Common Ground Awards are presented annually to honour outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community and peace building. Recipients must have made significant contributions toward bridging divides between people, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems and providing inspiration and hope where often there was none. Previous award winners include former US President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Founded in 1982 and with the motto “Understanding differences, acting on commonalities”, SFCG works to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. SFCG engages in pragmatic long-term processes of conflict transformation using a wide range of approaches, including mediation and facilitation, training, community organizing, sports, drama, music and special radio, TV and film features such as the popular “The Team” TV series in Kenya.
While in Washington, the MYSA Executive Director also had exploratory discussions with SFCG on new joint initiatives. For example, building on MYSA’s pioneering programmes over the last decade in feeding and freeing jailed kids plus the successful SFCG project on conflict resolution training with inmates in jails in Indonesia, consideration is being given to starting a similar programme for adult inmates in jails in Kenya.
Although often better known for winning gold medals at East African and global youth competitions such as the Norway Cup and the recent FIFA Football for Hope tournament during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, off the field the Mathare youth have also won international awards for their pioneering environmental cleanups and community service activities such as the 1992 UNEP Global 500 Award for environmental innovation and achievements (Rio de Janeiro), the 1999 Global Help for Self-Help Prize by the Strømme Foundation (Oslo), the 2001 CAF African Youth Development Award (Johannesburg), the 2003 Prince Claus Award for cultural achievement (Amsterdam), the 2004 World Sports Academy/Laureus Sport for Good Award (Lisbon) and the 2008 Score4Africa Award for the best and most innovative environmentally sustainable project in Africa (London).

Read also the special report on the community and peace building work of the “Young Peacemakers in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Mathare Slums in Kenya” which was presented by Bob Munro, Chairman of MYSA's Board of Trustees, at Play the Game's conference in 2009.

For more information on MYSA and SFCG, see and, or contact Henry Majale, MYSA Deputy Executive Director, at


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