One story that has particularly inspired me recently is that of a young girl in Bangladesh, Sumaiya, who feels she has a 'new identity' thanks to International Inspiration.
In Cox's Bazar, south-east Bangladesh, where Sumaiya lives, it has not always been easy for girls to enjoy their right to play and participate in outdoor activity: the region is socially conservative and people live according to strict religious customs.
However, International Inspiration has formed a female sports team in the area – the first of its kind – and has worked closely with the community to ensure it is integrated and accepted in their society. Such has been the success of this project, Sumaiya reports that, 'Sport has given me a new identity in my community. People respect me. I feel like I have a voice now'.
When I hear stories like this from children like Sumaiya I feel inspired too – and delighted to know that there are thousands more stories from children like Sumaiya across the 15 countries that International Inspiration is currently working in.
As I write this it is an exciting time for International Inspiration. In 2010, International Inspiration expanded rapidly, almost doubling the number of countries where it is working (eight to 15) and more than tripling the number of children reached from 2.1 million to almost seven million.
We now have to capitalise on this fantastic work in 2011, ensuring a legacy is left in those countries where the programme is coming to an end, and making important decisions about the final countries we would like to work in if we are to realise our dream of reaching 12 million children in 20 countries.
Already we are seeing evidence of a lasting legacy in the five countries where International Inspiration was piloted: Azerbaijan, Brazil, India, Zambia and Palau.
For example, in Azerbaijan, the programme has influenced national policy change as well as reaching more than 100,000 children through sports camps, festivals and community events. Working with the Ministry of Youth & Sport in Azerbaijan, International Inspiration has provided the catalyst for reviewing state policy on sport, resulting in two new documents – the National Strategy on PE and Sport Development (2009-2020) and law on PE and Sport. This new legislation makes provision for better inclusion in sport for children and young people and has created better conditions to play and develop in sport for children and youth of all abilities.
In India, an International Inspiration training resource known as 'PEC' (Physical Education Cards), initially piloted in 60 primary schools, has been such a success that the government is rolling it out to at least 67,000 schools, benefiting millions of children who will be able to play and learn through sport under the guidance of teachers using this specially tailored resource.
Just two examples of how our promise to change young people's lives through sport is not only already being delivered, it is leaving a lasting legacy wherever it goes.