Sport – The Bridge

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Sport – The Bridge

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Sport – The Bridge reintegrates street children into their families and school using sport as a mean. In daily sport lessons the children develop their self-confidence and learn about social behavior and values. We also work with the childrens’ families in order to help them improve their economic and social situation.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The street child phenomenon is an alarming and escalating worldwide problem. In Addis Abeba more than 60'000 children live on the street. Street children are exposed to wide range of physical and psychological violence as they live without any adult protection and suffer stigmatization through society. The lack of food and access to sanitary facilities and to health care systems, often accompanied by drug abuse lead to a poor mental and physical state of the children. There is no possibility for street children to attend school or to get vocational training. This lack of basic and professional education leads to further vulnerability and hopelessness in their future lives. Thus, many of the street children in Addis Abeba end up either in prostitution, theft or arms and drug trade. It is the aim of Sport – The Bridge to help them chance this fate.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We believe that every human being has the potential to discover his or her abilities and to enhance them. A prerequisite to everybody working with Sport – The Bridge Ethiopia is there-fore the willingness to learn. What is true for individuals is also for societies: Streetism is part of a range of global social problems that can be observed in any society be it in the so-called “third World” or in the “first World”. In one or another sense every country is a developing country that can learn from the experience and the knowledge of other societies. We keep in mind the global dimension of these challenges, are willing to learn from other societies and are on the other hand open to share our knowledge. Our aim is to build various bridges of learning and sharing. Even a child can to a certain degree take its life in its own hands, be responsible for itself and take decisions. A requirement for every child admitted in our program is therefore the willingness to take responsibility for its situation and future. Every child has the right to leave our program at any time. We try to counsel it and convince it but we never try to keep a child in our program by threats or other means of force. Our approach is a pedagogical one which means that we try to challenge a child in the way that it will discover itself what way to go. Learning stands in the center of our work: Children, families but also the society have to learn to change their behavior. However, learning can be a matter of rational adaptation of knowledge and behavior. But we are convinced that the learning process can be supported and is more efficient through emotion and direct physical experience. Sport is one possibility of such an integral learning: Sport needs physical and mental fitness and it would be unthinkable without emotions. We do not see our work as helping street children and their families but rather as assisting them in solving their problems themselves.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

street children have passed through our program. Each child passes through four phases: entry phase, stabilizing phase, coping phase and finally replacement phase (phase in which the support from our organization gets reduced step by step). In the last phase the children learn to take the responsibility for their life, to make decisions independently and to bear the consequences of their behavior. An intensive cooperation with the family of origin and a step-by-step hand over of educational responsibility are indispensable. The relationships to workers of the project are gradually reduced. The first children who have been admitted to our program in 2004 have passed all four phas-es and have now successfully completed the program of Sport – The Bridge. Most of them have been re-integrated into their families in Addis Ababa and are now regularly attending public school. Our main impacts are  to reunite street children with their families and to reintegrate them into society  to support and teach children in acquiring social competences, self-confidence and a positive self-image  to reduce negative attitudes from society towards former street children  to draw the people’s attention to the problem of streetism  to prepare children for school and facilitate access to formal education  to enhance physical and mental health of street children  to bring back street children to their families in the countryside We participate in or organize regularly public sport events in which we take to opportunity to raise awareness of the population to the problems of street children, to reduce stigmatization and to foster integration of the former street children into society.
About You
Sport The Bridge
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Sport The Bridge


, AA

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sport The Bridge

Organization Phone

+41 79 6843870

Organization Address

Haus des Sports Postfach, 3000 Bern 22 Switzerland

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, AA

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Daily Sports Program:
We teach our participant children about social behavior through the KRAFTmodell, a sport-pedagogical model developed by Stefan Zihler. The KRAFTmodel uses sport to teach children about social norms, to know about their strengths and weaknesses and about how their body and mind work.
Weekly Football Tournaments:
STB organizes weekly football tournament for eight to ten teams in which children with different social backgrounds participate.The aim of these tournaments is to sustain and strengthen the social integration of (former) street children into society and reduce stigmatization.
Club System:
The club system gives the children a chance to come to the projectside and to do sport after they have been reunited with their families and rejoined school.
Family Work:
In workshops and self-help groups we work with the childrens’ families in order to help them improve their economic and social situation.


Currently Sport – The Bridge is working with about 200 street children and their families who are actively participating in the project. 150 children are taking part in the follow-up program for already re-integrated children while 50 children have been newly admitted in December 2009. Since the project started another 100 children have either been successfully integrated into their homes and schools or have been referred to another NGO which was more suitable for them.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1
Increase the number of supported children to the targeted levels and then consequently sta-bilize the number at this level. In order to achieve this, research on the nature and movement of the street children has to be conducted. Further, we have to carefully analyze the reasons for children dropping out of the program.
Year 2
Anchor the project in the local neighborhood so that local children can join some of the pro-grams of Sport – The Bridge and use the facility provided by the organization. This is helpful to enhance the beneficiary childrens’ social competence and to increase the acceptance of the population for the problem of streetism.
Year 3
We will study the possibility to expand the project to other areas of Addis Ababa in order to reach more target group street children. This would allow access to our organization for street children living at the border of the huge capital city.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The organization is very much relying on local staff and their commitment to the project. The day-to-day operations have totally been delegated to the local management and staff; only strategic decisions are taken by the Swiss Board and its institutions. The top management and most of the senior staff has been trained by the Swiss team and is the holder of valuable know-how. The loss of key staff would not lead to a failure of the project but would certainly jeopardize the success of the project. It would take some time to substitute key managerial know-how and specific knowledge about the model and concepts of Sport – The Bridge. Thus it is important that the local management feels as owner of the project to ensure their continuous commitment.
Another important factor is the access to a big sports field in the center of Addis Abeba. The project is designed as such that the daily sport lessons with the beneficiary children need enough space for the training. We have faced serious problems when renewing the agreement with the local authority responsible for the sport field we are using. It was a challenging situation for the organization to reach to an agreement with the authorities. For now we have secured access to the big sport field as long as we are operating in Addis Ababa, but from the past experience we know that the situation can suddenly change without leaving much time to find alternative solutions.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Sport - The Bridge

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

We always relied on good and valuable relationships with local and international NGOs, busi-nesses and government which go beyond financial support. Below we list some of the most important partnerships.
Gigathlon Ethiopia is a Children Sport Event initiated and yearly organized in Addis Ababa by Sport–The Bridge supported by Swiss Olympic. The main objective of the event is to enhance social and personal competence of underprivileged children through sport and fun, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness for the situation of the street children.
In Addis Ababa our organization has contact to several other small NGOs which are working with street children. Regular exchange with these partners helps to find solution for challen-ges faced when working with street children.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Our focus is on pedagogical rather than material support. This means that our most valuable assets are motivated and capable employees. Motivation and the willingness to learn and to develop are more important than diplomas and theoretical knowledge. We give a chance to an employee even if he or she may be under qualified at the beginning. To keep the organi-zation on growth track we must try to retain staff and reduce fluctuation or absence to a min-imum. In order to improve employees’ commitment and dedication to their work, Sport – The Bridge encourages on the job training and staff development. Sport – The Bridge in general supports financially attempts of the employees for further or continuing education.
One of the most challenging and most essential actions to grow the impact of our organiza-tion is the selection of the participant children. It is important to find those children who are truly willing to take a step forward and change their future. We have made significant pro-gress in the selection of our participant children, yet we still see potential for improvement.
To raise enough funds to cover the yearly budget of the organization is vital to Sport – The Bridge’s ambitious goals. Unlike many non-profit organizations we – for many reasons – do not take advantage of the services of professional fundraisers. Instead, the volunteers of the association in Switzerland led by a fundraising task force do the fundraising work. In the past we relied on a few big donations from charitable foundations and government agencies. We are aiming at reducing our dependency by expanding the donator basis.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2002 Stephan Zihler founded the association Sport – The Bridge. The main reason was that he didn’t much like the way many other organizations interpreted their role as relief or-ganization because “too much money is spent on administration” and they would never want local people to take over the project after a short induction period. So he decided to found Sport – The Bridge with the aim to prove that social development could be done different. He always saw himself as “social troubleshooter” which offers assistance for a short-time. He always persuaded the idea of empowering people so that they could help themselves.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Stephan Zihler, the founder of the association Sport – The Bridge, is an entrepreneur and initiator of new ideas in the area of sport pedagogy. Because he wanted to be able to use play, sport and movement more purposefully in the education work, he developed his own sport-educational model. The published teaching material called “KRAFTmodell” is being used during the last ten years aiming at educational interventions with individuals and in groups.
Since the NGO Sport – The Bridge was set up in 2002 it has undertaken several projects in Switzerland and started its project in Addis Ababa at the end of 2004. “We chose Ethiopia because in many ways it is like Switzerland, in the sense that it is “multicultural and multilin-gual” said Stephan Zihler. Stephan spent a full year in Ethiopia with friends to establish and lead the project. They all served as volunteers during one year.
Stephan has a commercial background, he was then re-educated to a social worker. In the meantime he has found his own social development business focusing on sport and peda-gogy, family care and support for the development of projects. He has experience as supervisor in a child psychiatry as well as pedagogical leader of a children’s home and is board member of several organizations.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

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