Burundi Children, Victory over Sweden on Friday 30 March 2012 was followed immediately by a visit from the German table tennis stars Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov to meet the children from Burundi who were in Dortmund as part of the “Ping Pong Paix” project. The stars spent some time with the children, and served as the role model for the children, with Timo advising them to “just keep on playing, have fun, it is not important if you win or lose”. Certainly, as Ludovic Hubler, Head of Programs and Field Operations Manager of Peace and Sport, emphasized, “we are not trying to build champions, we are trying to spread the message of peace through sports”.
“Meeting table tennis heroes is an infinite source of inspiration for these young people and I hope that they will draw lessons that they can use not only when playing table tennis, but in their everyday lives”, expressed Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, and President of the World Olympians Association. “As President of the World Olympians Association, I warmly thank all the players who take the time to interact with the children as they are true role models.”
Visit to a Local School
“I like computers!” Yvette exclaimed. The girl from Burundi saw a computer and excitedly started tapping on it. The Burundi children of the “Ping Pong Paix” project had visited a local school, Max Planck Gymnasium in Dortmund, on 30 March 2012.
Apart from lessons where they interacted with the local students, they were also given a tour of the school. Expectedly, they were astonished by the size and possibilities that the school offered students. However, from the reaction of Yvette, the school had also become a source of inspiration and motivation for the Burundi children.
Equipment Manufacturer Butterfly, a Supportive Partner
The children from Burundi also visited the Butterfly shop located inside Westfalenhallen, the stadium where the World Table Tennis Championships are being held. There, they presented their handicraft as a token of appreciation to Butterfly.
Mr. Shunsaku Yamada explained their involvement in the Ping Pong for Peace projects. “Our company is called Tamasu, but the brand name is Butterfly because butterflies serve the flowers. We at Butterfly regard the table tennis players as the flowers. It is very natural for us to serve the players. But in order to play table tennis, you must have peace. And that’s why we have devoted ourselves in creating peace through table tennis.”
Mr. Yamada also expressed his delight in meeting the children. “We have been shipping table tennis equipment to different countries, but now, at last, we have seen the people, the children, of the region that we have been sponsoring. And we feel very happy to see the results of what we have been doing.”
Legacy of “Ping Pong Paix”
“Something else we try to promote is what we call adaptive equipment,” said Mr. Ludovic. He explained that they “are trying also to have them building their own sports equipment as this is more sustainable.” He emphasized the importance of sustainability, stating that “we should not reply on import always because it costs a lot of money in terms of equipment, transportation, customs and human resources, so we insist a lot on having them use more creativity and not to rely on others.”
Thoughts on the trip to World Championships
“We are very glad to be here in WTTC. This is a good opportunity to give the message of peace. Here there is unity and there is peace. At our youth centre we would spread this message,” expressed the Burundi delegation.
However, the Burundians are not the only ones who have learnt from this experience. At this championships where teams aim to become the World Champions, “they are also here to remind the people that we must not only focus on the sport aspect, but also the social aspect – how sport can promote peace,” explained Mr. Ludovic.
Thanks from Internationl Table Tennis Federation
“On behalf of ITTF, I think we should thank DTTB for supporting this program financially, and also Butterfly they have been supporting our table tennis for peace projects since the beginning,” said Leandro Olvech, Deputy Executive Director-Development of the ITTF. “First was Ping Pong Paz in Colombia and then Ping Pong Ba Dame in Timor Leste. This is also in line with the way of thinking of Mr. Tamasu, who wanted to help and support the peace in the world through table tennis with his company.”
The late Mr. Hikosuke Tamasu would have been proud of the efforts made; the values expressed by all concerned with Ping Pong Paix are values he held dearly. Photos by: Remy Gros & Werner Steinke