The Ismaili youth of Afghanistan have a new place where they can play, learn and socialise. The two-storey Youth, Sports and Social Development Center in Kabul, opened its doors in December 2010.

The product of a partnership between the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan and Roshan Community (the social responsibility arm of the nation's leading telecommunications provider), the centre is among the first of its kind in the country. The facility will house sports tournaments, classes, seminars and conferences for the physical, intellectual and social development of the youth. It will also provide practice space for the three most popular indoor sports – wrestling, taekwondo and boxing, in addition to indoor football (soccer), volleyball, ping-pong and basketball. A major differentiator from other facilities in Kabul is the partitioned area on the second floor reserved especially for girls and women.

“It is so amazing that we girls get a place of our own,” remarked a female member of the Youth and Sports Committee. “We can pursue our passions and interests, but more importantly, all of the activities here are going to empower our young girls.” The private space ensures their ability to pursue their physical development, health and sports interests in a secure and dignified environment, while at the same time respecting the cultural values of the community.

The inauguration of the Youth, Sports and Social Development Center drew over 550 attendees, including government officials, representatives of the AKDN institutions, the leadership of the Ismaili community, and others from other civil society and development organisations. Upon their arrival, guests were welcomed by Ismaili youth volunteers, who lined the walkway dressed in elegant blue blazers and red and green ties.

“The spirit of volunteerism within the community is astounding,” noted one expatriate worker, who was impressed at seeing “all of these young men and women giving their time and behaving with such discipline.”

The entrance to the vividly-coloured building gives way to a multi-use court lined with pillars. More than 100 male and female volunteers stood alongside the pillars, surrounding some 600 chairs reserved for guests. Red Persian-style carpets covered the walkways and a stage was set up at the front of the hall. But the most stunning sight was above: over 200 uniformed athletes lined the second-floor wrap-around balcony.

Overjoyed at the occasion, one athlete exclaimed: “I can't wait for the first sports tournament. It will give us the chance to showcase our talent and really develop our skills.”

There are high expectations for the Youth, Sports and Social Development Center. It is seen as an important step towards fulfilling an obligation towards younger generations. The Ismaili Council regards it a keystone in cultivating the human spirit – through sports, the arts and education – and hopes it will empower the youth to become citizens, role models and leaders of society who can contribute toward a vision of a safe and prosperous Afghanistan.