Empower Girls Through Soccer

by Open Field
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Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Empower Girls Through Soccer
Players check in before kick off
Players check in before kick off

We launched our girls league on January 31st and the competition is already heating up. And while nothing brings more joy to them than having a soccer ball at their feet, there is even more excitement about the theme for this season: mental health. After the stress and strain of 2020, our girls are thrilled to be able to focus on mental health during soccer sessions and games. We are taking a close look at how positive relationships, service to others, and physical activity play an important role in our mental health.

While leagues are playing in 2 neighborhoods in Kumba, we hosted our first workshops last Friday and launched our 30-day Active Lifestyle Challenge. All the girls began a journey to do 10-minutes of physical activity each day. Our staff Nenne and Caroline shared exercise booklets and they worked through a variety of options so they can mix things up.

All participants will reconnect at the end of this month, before the finals, to check in on and hold one another accountable and see who finished the challenge. Many of the girls were excited about this initiative because they complain they want to play more soccer, even though they are limited in their free time. This initiative allows them to keep up with their love of the game in their everyday lives at home.

Speaking of love of the game, last month we asked our community share why they love the game. We had an overwhelming response from youth in Cameroon, CEOs, executive directors, advocates for social impact and a professional soccer player, too! Check out what they said!

P.S.  We're inspired to continue this work because of our girls and people like you who invest in us. Let’s keep building!

Reading motivational statement before games
Reading motivational statement before games
Action in the field
Action in the field

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Somali Bantu girls stand before a session
Somali Bantu girls stand before a session

Despite all the chaos going on in the world, we are celebrating. First, Open Field is 10 years old!! We began our programs in 2010 and are using the last three months of this year to look back and celebrate the power of sport to improve the lives of thousands of lives of girls and boys in Cameroon and Pittsburgh. 

Our girls programs in Pittsburgh have been thriving! In both neighborhood, refugee girls are playing and learning and having serious conversations about respect, kindness, diversity, and sisterhood. They get equal access to coach mentors, field space, and playing time. We make sure to prioritize their participation to ensure they feel just as special as the boys, who are always encouraged and allowed to play outside the house. 

Over the past 8 weeks, we've ran programs and at the end of October, we celebrated our achievements by hosting friendly games for the girls in both communities, Northview Heights and Crafton Heights. The 3 nights of activities included pizza parties, fun games, science projects facilitated by our partners Carnegie Mellon University, and an official game where the Mayor of Pittsburgh inspired us with his encouragement of our girls. 

In Cameroon, girls played in the finals of our Super Cup and the Kumba Town team hoisted the cup. This was the culmination of a year-long effort supported by United Nations Development Programme in Cameroon to promote peace and social cohesion alongside gender equity. 

Thanks for supporting us to get to this point! We're honored to be able to celebrate a decade of social impact and cheers to 10 more years!

Congolese girls enjoy their pizza after soccer
Congolese girls enjoy their pizza after soccer
Kumba Town girls raise the cup!
Kumba Town girls raise the cup!

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Girls playing indoor soccer for the first time!
Girls playing indoor soccer for the first time!

After celebrating International Women's Day in style this year, we launched our Indoor Soccer League. And then everything changed. We quickly pressed pause on our programming in Cameroon and in the USA in response to the threat of COVID-19. After taking a moment to process, we responded in two different ways. 

In Cameroon, we partnered with a local TV station and began broadcasting a weekly TV segment that included awareness about precautions that youth could take to prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep themselves and their families healthy and reduce risk of infection. In addition to educational messaging, the TV segment included exercises and soccer skills that kids could do in their own homes while practicing social distancing and shelter in place. After a few weeks, Youth Leaders joined the TV program to share their experience and serve as role models and educators to their peers. We also hosted a competition where youth could submit a video of themselves doing the soccer skills. 

In Pittsburgh, we produced a 4-week virtual program and continued dialogue with our Youth Leaders from Northview Heights. Last month we hosted a week-long 5-day workshop on setting goals and building good habits. Coach-mentors facilitated conversations with youth participants, set and track personal goals they identify themselves, and featured an amazing guest speaker, Clara Kitongo, who share her experience and journey from attending a challenging, all-girls high school in Uganda to college at Chatham University, floating around in different jobs before pursuing a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University and finally landing her 'dream job' at Tree Pittsburgh, combining her passions, environmentalism and social justice. 

We're grateful to continue inspiring and engaging youth through (even virtually, in ways we never thought possible) through the global game of soccer. Thank YOU for supporting us along the way!

Slinka, a winner of Stay-Home Skills Competition!
Slinka, a winner of Stay-Home Skills Competition!
Guest speaker, Clara, shares her wisdom
Guest speaker, Clara, shares her wisdom

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Comfort is growing as a leader in Open Field!
Comfort is growing as a leader in Open Field!

We've got a lot to celebrate as we grow our girls programming in Cameroon and Pittsburgh! Thanks to your generous support, we've been able to continue our Girls Leadership Initiative in Kumba into the new year, with the league finals being played this weekend (Mar 14) and our Super Cup & Leadership Conference the following (Mar 20 and 21).

Comfort, one of the young women who joined our program this year shared "As the day goes by, I have gained a lot of skills as a player and lot of educational materials. I am now more responsible in my team and what makes me so happy is that at first I was very shy and stubborn to my mum, but because of Open Field my mum is encouraging me in anything I ask of her because she said since I started attending the program I have changed."

Over in Pittsburgh, we celebrated an awesome weekend with 36 girls from immigrant and refugee communities at Chatham University. Thanks to our hosts, the womens' soccer team, our girls enjoyed a Soccer + Life Skills Clinic, campus tour, and coversation with players over pizza on the plaza on a beautiful sunny day. 

Many girls exclaimed "I want to go to college here when I get older!"

We hope the day inspired them to study hard and prepare themselves for this opportunity to continue their education in the future. 

Players chat with a peer referee before kickoff.
Players chat with a peer referee before kickoff.
Group photo at Chatham University on IDW2020!
Group photo at Chatham University on IDW2020!
Our girls are always ready to play soccer.
Our girls are always ready to play soccer.

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Claudia left school after her father died to help her mother provide for her two little brothers. She lives in Kumba, only a few streets away from Open Field’s main office on Kramma Ave. Every day, she goes to the market to sell produce with her mum.

“When I first came to Open Field, there were lots of things that I didn’t know about my rights as a young woman, and how I deserve to be treated,” she said.

Claudia, alongside sixty other young women, participated in training workshops and soccer competitions over the past several months as part of our inaugural Girls Leadership Initiative. All participants were either witnesses to or survivors of gender-based violence. Together, under the guidance of local women, the girls were trained to recognize and prevent gender-based violence and given a safe space to begin processing their own experiences alongside peers who shared and related to their trauma.

After completing the program, Claudia says her confidence has soared. “I now speak boldly as a woman. I’m not afraid to talk about my ideas, or my skills with football [soccer].”

Your investment in Open Field creates safe spaces for youth, especially girls, affected by violence and insecurity to THRIVE. You build confidence and skills within young people like Claudia to become positive influences on other children in their neighborhood, creating a ripple effect on the entire community.

“I have become friends with people from so many different backgrounds,” Claudia said. “Now, I am a leader among my peers. I encourage them to join Open Field and experience the same benefits that I have.” 

Claudia is one of over two million children in Cameroon in need of humanitarian assistance. As the ongoing civil unrest spirals out of control, violence is increasing across the region with 48 percent of girls ages 15-17 experiencing physical or sexual violence. 

Please consider a financial gift to Open Field this holiday season to support young women like Claudia whose lives will be forever changed by your contribution.

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Organization Information

Open Field

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @openfieldintl
Project Leader:
Justin Forzano
CEO
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States
$3,296 raised of $10,000 goal
 
62 donations
$6,704 to go
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