Soccer Without Borders (www.soccerwithoutborders.org) is a young non-profit organization that seeks to use the language of soccer as a means to communicate with and empower young people to learn positive life skills. SWB creates an environment that focuses on team-building, conflict resolution, health education, non-violent communication, and mindfulness training, by creating sustainable soccer opportunities for communities. By educating coaches, organizing leagues, providing equipment, and engaging youth Soccer Without Borders aims to not only improve the quality of the sporting experience, but also raise consciousness about the benefits of sport.
Nicaragua has the third lowest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere, with rampant unemployment and illiteracy. In a country where a plate of food costs $2 while a soccer ball costs $25, making opportunities for growth through sports rare. Still, there is a distinct gap between what is available to men versus women. As with many Latin American countries, Nicaragua has a male-dominated culture that views sports as too dangerous or unbecoming of women. Without role models, encouraging coaches, parents, or proper equipment, most girls lose interest in sports at a time in their development when the physical, mental, and social benefits would be most powerful. Many do not own any shoes apart from sandals and their leather school shoes, and do not own clothing that is comfortable to run in, deterring them even further.
This year more than 25 female current and former college soccer players have volunteered for Soccer Without Borders in Granada. In the last sixth months, using a portion of the funds raised in the winter of 2009, the project has made some enormous strides toward our long term goals of sustainable girls soccer opportunities, and a permanent safe space wherein girls feel empowered to learn the life skills necessary for true change:
1) The first ever girls soccer league in Granada began at the end of April and ran for six weeks, culminating in a tournament and awarding of prizes to David’s team in the older division and Techo’s team in the younger division.
2) The office now hosts events four nights per week, including Girls’ night (Wed), Homework night (Thurs), Fun/TEAM night (Fri), and Movie night (Sat). The equipment bodega is up and running, and girls have been steadily earning equipment, especially footwear.
3) Futbol Sin Fronteras has its own advanced girls team, coached primarily by William and Manuel. They practice separately on Friday evenings and occasionally play friendly matches against schools and teams organized by other non-profits.
4) Nine of our Nicaraguan friends are employed as youth leaders to help lead and supervise all of these events including Chepe, Cesar, David, Cindy, Techo, Yelba, William, Kevin, and Mexico. Suyen is also employed as the Director of the Youth Leaders, working to build their leadership skills and help keep them united as a group.
5) Yelba has been consistently playing with the U-20 women’s national team, and FSF has decided to help sponsor her in this effort.
6) T.E.A.M. Granada is the first Soccer Without Borders project to now support a long-term internship which will run from September 1-December 1, and January 1-May 1. I am really excited to announce that Kay Adami and Zoe Bouchelle from Penn State will be our first two long-term interns in Granada for 09-10. Having a year-round presence and establishing consistency is a huge step for the program, and will also help enable us to better accommodate short-term volunteers when they become available.
Past donations to this project have supported the ongoing salaries of 10 Nicaraguan Soccer Without Borders staff members, the renting of an office space in Granada, support of 6 weekly events, the sponsorship of Granada's premier women's team, the annual painting of a community futsal field, and the 2nd annual T.E.A.M. Camp in March.
While all of this growth is incredibly thrilling, with it comes a tremendous responsibility to sustain the structures we’ve put in place. Every little bit helps, and these steps forward have presented us with the daunting fundraising goal of $18,000 for September 1, 2009-August 2010. Salaries for our Nicaraguan friends and funds to keep the office open make up a large percentage of that number, which humbles me even more to think about the possibility of not reaching that goal.
We hope that you’ll consider contributing to this incredible (tax-deductible) project!