To celebrate the program's five year anniversary, the coaches had organized an activity called "Past, Present, and Future", with each floor of the FSF oficina representing one of those points in time. For the past, a video highlight reel and photo timeline, with each girl asked to sign the timeline at the point she came into FSF, and caption her favorite photos. For the present, a chance to snap a photo and write a letter for a time capsule, capturing the current moment to look back on in another five years. For the future, a mosaic of dreams for the program, with each girl asked to imagine her ideal Futbol Sin Fronteras in 2018 and contribute a square. As if the sheer artistry weren't enough, the imagination and dreaming was overwhelming as the girls showed off their depictions of FSF in the future.
The art was beautiful; there were elaborate drawings of the world with players from all over holding hands and donning FSF uniforms. There were captions: "I've graduated school" "I'm attending university" with pictures of pencils, teachers, schools. There were drawings of the National Stadium, with our Mariposa team in the starting lineup. More common than anything else, though, there were representations of team, with full hearts and hands linked, revealing the shared hope that this common bond will still be here for the girls in five, ten, twenty years. Love and friendship- born in a safe space where a girl is free to be herself, to become herself- are the foundations on which the rest is built.
One of the reasons I was drawn to Soccer Without Borders in the first place was its commitment to authenticity: honoring the value and voice of local stakeholders to shape the direction of the program. As one of SWB's three core values, my understanding of authenticity has evolved tremendously over the last five years as we have worked alongside the community of Granada to build this program. I've learned that creating a program that authentically addresses the most pressing needs of the community is not as simple as providing resources and materials, training local leaders, and stepping aside to see if change grows out of the norm. Authenticity is neither stepping aside nor standing behind, it is a lengthy process of evaluating strengths and weaknesses, hopes and challenges, and working together to have them align: an authentic collaboration.
Addressing longstanding challenges to forge new paths requires an authentic collaboration of stakeholders with different ideas, talents, backgrounds, resources, and understanding. Parents, city leaders, coaches, teachers, artists, researchers, men, women...and most importantly the girls themselves provide critical input as to how to work within the cultural system respectfully yet open the door to new opportunities. As with any collaboration, maneuvering through language, experience, opinion, ego, belief systems, and stereotypes from all sides can easily derail the process. To have reached this milestone of five years, and to see the mosaic of dreams for FSF that the girls created, says that this collaboration is one that the girls, the coaches, and the community have embraced.
Together, we are ready to bring that mosaic to life during the next five years. Thank you for your part in supporting FSF to forge these paths in the community of Granada and beyond.
ps. The Anniversary celebration was preceded by the Inter-American Women's Soccer Exchange, a State Department sponsored initiative that is looking to expand our work beyond Granada. Check out the links to read about the trip!
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