James Mandigo was recognized for his work in El Salvador during a recent ceremony at the University of Ottawa.
It was a significant milestone for the interim Dean for the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University, the same university where he is the founder and co-director for the Centre for Healthy Development.
His passion on how to develop life skills, physical activity literacy, positive youth development and peace has led him to a long-lasting collaboration with a Salvadorian university, Universidad Pedagogica.
Through that relationship he has worked extensively with local teachers, school boards, governments and organizations within Canada, throughout the Caribbean and in El Salvador.
Mandigo’s work was already recognized and funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the International Development and Research Council of Canada, and Scotiabank International, but the recognition received from the government of El Salvador brings new light to the importance of this program in the development of a new generation of children and young professionals to a small country still recovering from the generational effects of its civil war.
The Ottawa event was born of a desire by the ambassador of El Salvador in Canada, Oscar Mauricio Duarte, “to establish regular collaboration between Canadian and Salvadorian higher education institutions, leveraging the network of Salvadorian professionals and researchers abroad” (Canada in this instance).
Those who participated in the event were encouraged by the dedication of Mandigo and the results he shared from the “Salud Escolar Integral” program since it was established in 2006 - a program using sport and physical education as tools to help foster the healthy development of critical life skills such as respect, inclusion, problem solving, conflict resolution and decision making.
In El Salvador, this approach is key in helping reduce the level of youth violence, increasing awareness of gender equality and equipping physical education teachers with the skills to incorporate these principles in their curricula.
The program is made possible by local partners such as Universidad Pedagogica, Instituto Nacional de los Deportes de El Salvador (INDES), and local schools.
With the support of Scotiabank, the program has reached thousands of children in El Salvador and has helped to train hundreds of teachers, coaches and students across the country.
But it has also benefitted many Canadian students from the Brock University who travel annually to El Salvador to work with their Salvadorian partners.