Tag Archives: inclusion

Running a thousand and one miles for inclusion, love and openness

In the middle of August I will set off on a journey that will take me across Iran, more than 2000 kilometers, on foot from Bazargan, on the Iranian border towards Turkey, to Sarakhs, on the Iranian border towards Turkmenistan. The route will take me along the Silk road and the adventure is named ”Thousand and one miles” after the fairy tale.

I will the first person to attempt to make this crossing and I will do it alone. I plan to run about 35 kilometers per day and the journey will take me nearly three months – allowing plenty of time for meeting people and experiencing the culture along the way.

It took me a while to figure out why I so strongly wanted to do this trip. It was something echoing inside, demanding that I do it.

Running is of course about enjoying beautiful nature and meeting friendly people; there will be plenty of both in Iran. But surely there are easier ways to enjoy beautiful countryside and meet friendly people than running, as a single woman, through a Muslim country with sharia laws. Why? What did I want to prove?

Eventually I realised that it is about fear and about love. It is about the way I want our society and our world to be. I want it to be based on love. Today I see that fear is ruling parts of how we live our lives and how we build our world and societies. I see xenophobic political parties growing in popularity, in Sweden and elsewhere. I want to challenge my own fears and prejudices as well as those of the world around me.

It might not be possible to change the world by running but perhaps I could change myself, the people I meet and inspire a seed of change in those who hear about my run? At least it is worth a try.

By doing this trip, I hope to bring people closer to each other, and to contribute to a more tolerant, peaceful and loving world.

I want love to be the basis of all Life; I think that is why we are born and why we are here.

Kristina Paltén is a Swedish adventurer and ultra-runner. She has previously ran from Turkey to Finland, completing the journey home to Sweden by kayaking across the Bay of Botnia and she is the currently world record holder of the longest distanced covered in 48 hours on a treadmill.

Sport: Strengthening communities and supporting social inclusion

Let’s take a more serious tone for a moment, and discuss one of the major reasons we are promoting the European Week of Sport. We haven’t talked much about it so far in this blog, but it one that is a fundamental motivations behind much of our work: social inclusion.

Sport is a universal language, one that can be spoken by everyone, no matter their gender, religion, disability, age or income group. It has also been recognised by the United Nations, the World Bank, and many experts around the world as being a powerful tool with which to combat social exclusion, promote intercultural learning and reduce social tensions.

At this point (if you’ve been reading our blog!), most of you know the physical and mental benefits of sport – and how important it is to get European to #BeActive as early in life as possible. But another incredibly important reason to get children and youth involved in sport is that it helps them build strong values – self-discipline, respect for one’s opponent, fair play, teamwork and adherence to mutually agreed upon rules and structure. These values, which embody some of the best that sport has to offer, carry over into people’s everyday lives, into their homes and workplaces and more importantly into their community.

So you see, it’s a win-win for Europe and for Europeans if we can achieve the objectives of this campaign. Think about it: how many other things offer the innumerable benefits of sport? Healthy bodies, healthy minds, creativity, success, self-esteem, healthy economies, thriving communities, FUN…we could go on, but we think you get the idea.

Yes, we want to get Europeans moving, but this movement is about so much more than just that. Join us, we can’t do this without you. #BeActive

How sport contributes to society

Participating in sport and physical activity brings multiple physical and mental health benefits. But sport has an even more powerful societal role to play. It can help promote social inclusion and create more cohesive societies. How?

Sport has universal appeal and knows no cultural or socio-economic boundaries. It enables people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures, including those from marginalised or underprivileged groups, to get together and have fun! By bringing together those who might not usually interact socially, sport helps break down barriers and strengthen communities.

What’s more, by engaging in sport, young people can attain personal and professional competences which enhance their employability. This kind of ‘informal learning’ fosters teamwork, discipline and creativity, and imparts valuable ‘life skills’ such as leadership, taking responsibility, and so on. In this way, sport can contribute to a bigger picture, helping to tackle youth unemployment and ultimately stimulate economic recovery.

And it doesn’t stop there!

Not only is physical inactivity one of the leading risk factors for health in Europe, it’s also costing us a fortune from direct (health care) and indirect costs.

Transforming our society into one that is more physically active can, literally, save our economies a lot of money that we all know is needed elsewhere.

#BeActive