Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua

by Soccer Without Borders Vetted since 2011 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
FSF Seniors in some post-practice gymnastics
FSF Seniors in some post-practice gymnastics

Dear Friends,

You may have seen Nicaragua in the news more frequently in recent weeks, and especially in recent days, as violent protests have spread nationwide including Granada. We appreciate the many messages of support that we have received, as our girls, coaches, and families face an uncertain future in their community and country.

Nicaragua, as many of you have experienced first-hand, is a beautiful country with great cultural pride and some of the most welcoming people you could ever meet. Soccer Without Borders has operated in Nicaragua since 2006, with full-time, year-round programming since 2008 led by local staff and American volunteers. In that decade, we have reached thousands of girls across the country, and transformed the soccer community in Granada, advancing opportunities for girls on the field, in the classroom, and beyond.

Our year-round program operates 46 weeks/year in the city of Granada with more than 175 girls ages 5-20 registered for our daily, after-school soccer, education, and community activities. We have fostered cross-cultural friendships through 29 different week-long camp and immersion experiences for more than 400 volunteers from across the United States, England, Italy, Trinidad & Tobago, and other countries.

As a country, Nicaragua is at a crossroads, with a generation of students and workers who are demanding a representative democracy of a government that has not lived up to that promise. The struggle that is underway goes beyond a particular law or policy; a national dialogue about the future of the Presidency and democratic process began in May and has continued tenuously throughout the month to where we are now. Amidst this national dialogue, planned and impromptu protests across the country have continued. While the city of Granada itself had held overwhelmingly peaceful protests, in recent days it has erupted into violence, with looting, roadblocks, fires, and shootings. Our program has shifted activities earlier in the day while school is canceled, led by our local staff members, and hopes to remain a consistent and positive presence in the daily lives of our girls and their families.

The economic implications of this time of turmoil in Nicaragua are significant. The loss of tourism and economic activity during these last two months has been devastating to many families, in a context where a third of population lives on less than $2/day. Here at Soccer Without Borders, we were forced to cancel our upcoming Cultural Exchange Trip, an immersion experience for high school students that also represents 20% of our annual program budget. Thanks to the generous support of the SWB community during the Girl Fund Challenge, we are confident that the program will be able to sustain its regular programming despite the cancelation of the trip. We are so grateful for this support, and know that this community will continue to rally in uncertain times.

If you would like to send words of support to our staff and participants in Nicaragua, please contact me directly ( and I will be sure to pass on these sentiments (and would be happy to translate!). 

With gratitude for your support,


Granada's Central Park



Thank you to everyone who participated in the Girl Fund Campaign! With 519 donors, we finished in third on the Leaderboard. The top four organizations secured spots in the fund; we are so grateful to our community of supporters for taking us to the top!

Our goal is to deepen our impact in Granada through additional educational, psychological, and socio-emotional resources for our girls. We also have plans to continue to expand the reach of our work to communities beyond Granada where local organizations and communities are just beginning to include sport as a part of their girls engagement strategy. We hope to accelerate and amplify their efforts through trainings, clinics, and direct caoching support. Thank you for taking us into the second decade of Fútbol Sin Fronteras with the support and funding we need to make these goals a reality.

With gratitude,

The Soccer Without Borders Team

Friendly match
Friendly match


This week, we had the honor of celebrating 10 years of impact at Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua. There are few words to describe a decade, but we hope that the project reports, Facebook posts, stories, blogs, and videos over the years have helped paint the picture of the collective journey to build a unique educational and impactful space for girls in Granada and beyond. Thank you for being a part of this impact. 

As we look ahead to new communities in Nicaragua where girls do not yet have these opportunities, we believe that the ripple of impact has only begun. Right now, we are just a handful of donations away from securing our place in the Girl Fund, which would unlock funding that would help us build on the legacy of programming in Granada by expanding our reach to more girls in Nicaragua. If you haven't already supported the campaign (we aren't able to segment this report list), which ends on Thursday, March 15th, please consider voting for Soccer Without Borders with a donation of $10 for 10 years. If you have already voted, THANK YOU! Any help in spreading the word would be much appreciated.

To commemorate this milestone, on International Women's Day over 150 girls from our program headed to Managua to watch our volunteer coaches from Penn State Women's Soccer take on the Nicaraguan Women's National Team. The game was live streamed on Facebook and was live on national public television, making it one of the most watched women's sports events in Nicaragua ever. Accessible female athlete role models are a key factor in retaining girls in sport, which leads to many other mental and physical health, social, and educational benefits for girls.

Following the game, on Saturday March 10th, we celebrated 10 years with a series of friendly matches between our Granada teams, and a citywide celebration in Calle Santa Lucia, including a Zumbathon that had the whole community up on its feet.

Muchisimas gracias for all of your support, for reading this report, and for your part in building the program that today has a 97% academic advancement rate from one grade to the next, 4 university scholarship recipients, 33 secondary school scholarship recipients, and has seen 10 different girls make the national team. Onward we go!

With Gratitude,

The Soccer Without Borders Team 

Anniversary banner
Anniversary banner
All photos courtesy of FADCANIC
All photos courtesy of FADCANIC

 “I had so many moments that made me realize how lucky I was to have grown up playing sports, but more importantly how essential it is to keep sharing sports to all those who feel unreachable. The power sport had to bring 6 different communities together, and empower young girls to be strong and confident leaders was truly inspiring.”

- Dani Weatherholt, Women's Sports Corps Fellow with Soccer Without Borders & professional player for Orlando Pride

In partnership with Women Win, Soccer Without Borders is thrilled to announce Women's Sports Corps, a unique fellowship opportunity that adapts and expands our existing Team Leader program to focus on women and girls globally. Made possible by the U.S. Embassy, Women's Sports Corps is kicking off with a series of camps and coaching clinics throughout 2018-19 with an aim of increasing girls participation in soccer, building girls' leadership skills, and identifying and supporting the growth of female coach role models in communities across Nicaragua.

On January 29th, a team of 5 FSF coaches & American fellows collaborated with local partner FADCANIC on the first camp. Together, they led a week of soccer programming and leadership workshops with more than 100 girls from Pearl Lagoon and 5 surrounding communities, most of whom were playing for the very first time. The design was inspired by our annual T.E.A.M. Camp in Granada which, for the last 10 years, has begun the New Year with a week of soccer camp and team-building activities with the girls in our core program. 

"We had no idea what to expect for our first camp in Pearl Lagoon. We had gotten the chance to help coach week-long camps in Granada and also participated in many camps growing up in the US, but what would it be like in Pearl Lagoon? How old are the girls? Are they accustomed to playing sports? Do they know how to play soccer? What language will they speak? In the end, camp is about forming relationships with players, local coaches, community members, and partner nonprofits, all while highlighting examples of positive female leadership. This could not have been truer for our time in Pearl Lagoon,” reflected Fellow Brittany Williams.

This approach of expanding opportunities through strategic partnerhips marks the beginning of a new strategy to better meet the overwhelming gap and need for girls' sport and leadership programming across the country. Getting to know each context is a new challenge, as each region of the country has its unique culture, identity, logistics, and histories. Local partners are essential.

"Pearl Lagoon was an incredibly welcoming community… Girls participating in the camp came in from six communities: Pearl Lagoon (Laguna de Perlas), Raitipura, Awas, Haulouver, Kukra Hill, and Kahkabila. Some walked in from town. Some traveled an hour by bus. Some rode across by boat. The modes of transportation differed, as did the languages and dialects each community spoke (Spanish, English, Creole English, Miskito...), yet all of the young women arrived with energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to play soccer each day," explained Fellow Katie Petit

As we move further into 2018, we are continuing to lay the foundations for consistent programs beyond Granada through collaborations with organizations like FADCANIC. By providing training, equipment, and female coach role models, we are able to incorporate soccer into their existing community programs, giving girls a unique opportunity to experience the benefit of sports and grow their leadership.

We need your support! Starting TODAY MARCH 1st, we are participating in the Girl Fund Challenge hosted by GlobalGiving. Between March 1-15, each individual person that donates $10 or more to our GlobalGiving project page will count as a vote. The six projects in the Girl Fund Challenge with the most votes between March 1-15 will secure their spot for the year as a Girl Fund project, receiving ongoing funding through the rest of the year!

Please consider casting your vote with a $10 donation to help us continue to build on this progress in Granada and beyond.

Girls from Raitipura practicing their juggling
Girls from Raitipura practicing their juggling
Coach Lisbeth of FSF leads a drill in Pearl Lagoon
Coach Lisbeth of FSF leads a drill in Pearl Lagoon
Coach Brittany co-leads a stretch with a player
Coach Brittany co-leads a stretch with a player
Teams play in the Final Tournament of camp
Teams play in the Final Tournament of camp
Natalia in 2010
Natalia in 2010

Natalia lives across the street from our Soccer Without Borders youth center in Granada. She is about to finish her 8th year with the program and, more importantly, this week is her high school graduation. Natalia and her teammates are re-writing the story for girls in Nicaragua: they are playing soccer, they are finishing high school, and they are going to college. Just 48% of students in Nicaragua even make it to secondary school. Graduating, especially as a girl with many responsibilities at home, is not a given.

Through their hard work and the support of their coaches, teammates, and our secondary school scholarship program, Soccer Without Borders maintained a 97% academic advancement rate from 2016 to 2017. It is Natalia and her classmates, our graduating class, who set the tone for all of the younger girls- showing them that the norm is not to drop out, but to thrive and set your sights on college.

We are thrilled to announce that we have been able to triple the size of our University Scholarship program for 2018, as we had more girls qualify for it than ever before. Natalia is among the three graduates selected, with nearly perfect attendance at practices, games, tutoring, leadership workshops, and team-activities, and recommendations from their coaches. She will head to the University of Managua in February.

In our sector, we rely on a combination of individual gifts, grants, and other revenues to make our program activities sustainable for our 150 year-round participants, and 700 additional girls we serve throughout the city. We are proud to have created camps, an ambassador program, and team trips to generate revenue that supports nearly 60% of our annual program budget. Our Education program, supported by two generous family foundations, represents another 30%. For the remaining 10% each year, we need you. 

"FSF en un lugar donde puedo jugar y divertirme, aprendemos mucho de valores y nos sentimos felices de ser quien somos....Soccer Without Borders is a place where I can play and have fun, we learn a lot of values and we are happy to be who we are"- Ashly, age 11

Without the support of individuals like you, we would not be able to provide the only girls-specific after-school program in the entire city of Granada. Our youth center is open to the girls 47 weeks per year, 6 days/week with access to mentoring, tutoring, computers, internet, printing, homework help, workshops, a library, an equipment exchange, and- best of all- their teammates and coaches. 

TODAY FOR GIVING TUESDAY, GLOBALGIVING IS MATCHING DONATIONS! The match is proportionate, so the more donations we get the more of the match we unlock. Thank you for considering another gift to Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua!

Natalia in 2017 (at the same field)
Natalia in 2017 (at the same field)

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Organization Information

Soccer Without Borders

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Mary McVeigh
Cambridge, MA United States
$55,625 raised of $60,000 goal
1,889 donations
$4,375 to go
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