Since 2015 White Card Day has been an annual digital campaign marking the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, created by the Peace and Sport organisation.
In a week of championing the positive power of sport, the long-running Fight to Unite programme in Belfast is among the standout cases of peace and local sport for development from within the vast international IMMAF community.
For years the work of Danny Corr, founder of the Ulster Amateur MMA Association (UAMMAA), has worked closely with “left-behind” youths from within politically divided areas of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The Fight to Unite programme at the ZK Dojo has a hugely successful track record in delivering GCSE maths and English tuition, coaching qualifications and personal development for young MMA practitioners, underpinned by research throughout the process that has highlighted the project’s ability to change the perception of how culturally divided youths perceive one another. The wide-reaching project has seen MMA based coaching courses enter A-level classrooms and has created jobs for new youth workers, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
The acclaimed work has received governmental support, as well as support from Laureus Support for Sport and Fight for Peace.
Since then, in partnership with Denis Rowan Associates, Corr has been working to develop a cross-border “Sport for Peace” project with UAMMAA’s counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA), which will be based in Drogheda with backing from the LMETB. Through the latter formation of IMMAF’s “Peace Through MMA Commission”, with Corr as its Chair, the international federation is now further developing the blueprint to roll out through other National Federations.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the biggest disruption to sport within the lives of young people today and with devastating effects in many areas, limiting opportunity and participation and with significant impact upon mental health and wellbeing. Recovering from the pandemic will no doubt be at the heart of sport development projects for years to come, and during these difficult times the “Fight to Unite” has managed to continue its training of youths through video tutorial and latest reports indicate how the project has excelled in spite of unprecedented hurdles. Furthermore, plans have continued to facilitate coaching placements abroad for young people who have now completed their qualifications through the programme.
IMMAF encourage members of the MMA community to share photos of themselves holding up a White Card; the symbol of peace, positivity, inclusion and equity.