ORPHAN: A child whose parents are dead or have abandoned them. Other references refer to orphans when they are uncompanioned in any form.

Specific groups this Activity Box applies to

Children up to 16 years old in one of these scenarios living:

  • In orphanages or public shelters
  • Children with adoptive or other types of caregivers


  • 1.1 million children globally experienced the death of a primary caregiver because of the pandemic (64)
  • In the USA, 40 percent of grandparents living with grandchildren serve as their primary caregivers (64)
  • In Ukraine, the number of orphans is as high as 9 million (68)

Why is it so important


The immediate and long-term damage caused by family separation and unsuitable alternative care brings negative consequences. Sport can provide unique contributions to these scenarios:

  • It can help children to push their limits and build their resilience (63) and increase their mental and physical well-being.
  • Capacity to strengthen self-esteem and other relevant life skills such as communication, teamwork and discipline.
  • Sport can spread positive advocacy messages around this topic.

International endorsement:

UNICEF Universal Rights of Children:
Every child has a right to leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities

WHO Global action plan on physical activity
Activity 3.3: In partnership with education, health and child-care sectors, implement programmes aimed at families, parents and caregivers to develop the skills to help young children enjoy active play and explore within the family environment.

Barriers to sport that should be overcome

  •  Orphanages and other care institutions lacking adequate Sport equipment/facilities
  • Children submerged in trauma episodes with symptoms of depression, anxiety, among others
  • Lack of specialized trainers and adapted methodologies to deal with orphans
  • Many youths are forced to leave school/clubs to look after younger siblings

Tips and key success factors

Safeguarding in Sport:

  • Define procedures to identify a potential risk situation when orphans participate in clubs.
  • Referring procedures and protocols should also be set if infringement occurs of any of its universal rights.
  • Working with orphans living in shelters of orphanages may carry on legal issues. Sport for All practitioners should be aware of local legislation, e.g. EU guidelines on family reunification.

Role of a coach as alternative caregivers:

  • Through their actions and words, these people inspire and guide the children and youth around them.
  • Consistent, positive emotional relations with a caring adult is a significant protective factor and help build resilience, enabling children and youth to better manage the challenges in their lives.
  • Coaches should be skilled (technical Sport skills), enthusiastic teachers and athlete role models.
  • Coaches play a critical role in safeguarding children and mitigating possible negative influences.

Approach of activities:

  • Orphanages and other care institutions should see agreements with public Sport facilities.
  • Regular activities should be sustained (at least one once a week).
  • Attention should be paid to help children for integration into society once they are out of the orphanage. Integrational events can be organised by mixing these children with others not living in the orphanage. Also, they can prepare teams and compete in local leagues or school competitions.
  • Combine Sport with other expressions that can improve children’s capacity for resilience: dance, music and arts.

Other Tips

  • Every individual should be given proper attention: Avoid forgetting child’s basic information: names, hobbies.
  • Other individuals may also provide alternative care: friends, neighbors, young leaders in a community, other staff in orphanages. These caregivers should get adequate capabilities to work with orphans.
  • Professional athletes and other role models can contribute to transmitting messages of hope to young orphans.

Available resources

  • Messages of hope for orphans in Algeria (in French). Click Here
  • Child safeguarding Toolkit for UEFA member associations. Click Here
  • Story of an orphan in Ukraine. Click Here

Sample case

Slavata Triathlon Tours

  • The Tours mainly focus on Czech orphanages and children from socially disadvantaged families.
  • The event introduces them to the three-triathlon disciplines of running, cycling and swimming.

More information:

Video of the event Click Here