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Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua

by Soccer Without Borders
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Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
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
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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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Teams parade together to FSF's fields
Teams parade together to FSF's fields

To celebrate the 2017 International Day of Peace, the Fútbol Sin Fronteras Granada community hosted its 9th annual Copa de la Paz (Peace Cup), the only all-girls soccer tournament in Nicaragua. The 2017 tournament was the largest to date; 18 soccer teams competed in games across 2 weekends and multiple age brackets bringing more than 700 players and fans together to celebrate the International Day of Peace.

Katie Pettit, FSF Granada’s Team Leader, recaps all of the excitement for us here....

Our core values at Fútbol Sin Fronteras include sportsmanship, team-building, and respect for all women in the game. As part of this mission, we recently hosted our annual Copa de la Paz, an all-girls tournament celebrating the International Day of Peace. Copa de la Paz is no ordinary tournament. In addition to being the only all-girl’s tournament in Nicaragua, the Peace Cup also includes a team award for positivity, respect, and dedication. There is so much that can be highlighted from the 2017 Copa de la Paz, however four themes especially stuck out this year: anticipation, collaboration, passion, and pride.

Anticipation. Simply put, Copa de la Paz is a big deal. In the 2 months leading up the tournament, we were training for Copa de la Paz at every practice with physical drills and scrimmages, as well as discussing the meaning and values of peace. We watched photos and videos from previous years, screaming with laughter at funny pictures and appreciating the memories created. When the day of this year’s tournament finally arrived, the feeling was electric. Girls bounced up and down with pre-game excitement and nerves, anxiously awaiting the sound of that first whistle blowing.

Collaboration. Copa de la Paz is a group effort, and not just on the day of the tournament. A lot of logistical planning goes into the event from both FSF coaches and coaches of the participating teams joining us from Granada and nearby cities. Leading up to the tournament, Fútbol Sin Fronteras coaches worked with professors from local primary and secondary schools, as they helped organize teams to represent each school. Copa de la Paz provides an excellent opportunity to grow FSF’s network and build a support system for women’s soccer in Granada and nearby communities. NicaFútb Feminino, a local organization that covers and promotes the women’s game in Nicaragua, was even there to livestream our event on Facebook. In the past 3 years, Copa de la Paz has expanded to include numerous teams as the tournament’s reputation has grownThis year we had more than 18 teams participate, totalling more than 700 people who either played or attended 1 of the 2 days of the tournament!

The event itself brought out a shared sense of purpose and accomplishment between players, coaches, referees, parents, friends, and onlookers. Everyone was out at the fields, under the blazing sun, to support women’s soccer and equality in Nicaragua, and to have fun playing the sport we all love. Hands were shaken before games, fellow teammates were encouraged, players gave hands to help lift one another after a foul, and high fives were abundant. In the following awards ceremony, all teams supported and cheered for each other.

Passion. Tears of joy after a late second-half goal in a championship game. Shocked screams rang out as a penalty hit the crossbar. There were even a few tears of frustration after an early round loss. The girls love the competition, their teammates, the game—all of it.

Pride. There was an overwhelming sense of pride throughout the day, starting with our parade at 8:00am. We blasted inspirational music and teams cheered as they marched through the streets of Granada to the tournaments’ fields. Proud mothers and fathers took videos throughout the entire day, hoping to catch the eye of their focused daughter. Girls wore their sweaty jerseys, grass marks, and occasional bruises with pride as we walked back together, exhausted, from the fields. In the weeks following Copa de la Paz, our players have re-lived the event, with countless “remember whens” and “did you sees."  

Each year, Copa de la Paz is a special opportunity for FSF to expand our reach and bring together multiple teams to support and celebrate women’s soccer in Nicaragua. It is safe to say that many more special memories were created this past year, and we are already looking forward to the next Copa de la Paz! When reflecting on this year’s tournament, Pancha, an FSF Senior player, and César, our program’s Co-Director had much to share:

“Copa de paz significa para mi, tiene cuatro puntos principales. Son respecto, puntualidad, la espiritua de paz, y compañerismo. Eso nos ayuda ser mejor personas cada día, y mejorando tanto personales y como fútbolistas. ”(The Copa de Paz has four main principles to me. They are respect, punctuality, a spirit of peace, and companionship. That helps us to be better people each day, and to improve both as people and soccer players.)
           —Pancha, FSF Senior Player

“Para nosotros, celebrar Copa de Paz significa como un sentimiento de oportunidad, alegría, diversión, amistad, tolerancia, compañerismo. Disfrutar y compartir con diferentes escuelas, chicas, y personas de nuestra comunidad es cada día más satisfactorio, pienso que nuestro trabajo cada día da frutos, ver a niñas de 6 años jugando este deporte (fútbol) es tan hermoso y emotivo, ver a sus padres como entrenadores está rompiendo las barreras del pensamiento, ver el apoyo de la comunidad significa mucho para nosotros, puedo decir que ahora Granada es la Capital del Fútbol Femenino en Nicaragua.” ("For us, to celebrate Peace Cup means opportunity, joy, fun, friendship, tolerance, fellowship. To enjoy and to share with different schools, girls, and people of our community is every day more satisfactory; I think that our work every day bears fruits, to see girls of 6 years playing this sport (soccer) is so beautiful and emotive, to see their parents as coaches are breaking the barriers of thinking, seeing the support of the community means a lot to us. I can say that now Granada is the Capital of Women's Soccer in Nicaragua.)
          —César, FSF Co-Director

Junior division game-day action
Junior division game-day action
Cesar & FSF Senior players welcome teams
Cesar & FSF Senior players welcome teams
FSF Junior Teams 1 & 2
FSF Junior Teams 1 & 2
Teams take the field for the championship match
Teams take the field for the championship match
Players chat with Coach Lizbeth before the parade
Players chat with Coach Lizbeth before the parade
Post-tournament photo of Senior Division teams
Post-tournament photo of Senior Division teams

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Todos pueden jugar
Todos pueden jugar

A key element to Soccer Without Borders’ programming is using soccer to bridge cultural differences, opening up a space for cross-cultural connection. As we prepare to host a group of 15 visiting high school students from the U.S. next week at our program in Nicaragua, we’ve reflected upon our most recent experience from hosting another group: The University of Illinois Women’s Soccer Team.

This Spring, the University of Illinois Women’s Soccer Team joined the Nicaraguan Women’s National Team (FENIFUT) and Fútbol Sin Fronteras—Granada (FSF) in a 10 day, 2 city event focused on promoting and expanding opportunities for women and girls playing soccer at all levels of the game. The University of Illinois stepped into a big month for FSF and the National Team. With the second season of FSF Granada’s secondary-school league in full swing, known locally as La Liga Escolar, and the National Team’s preparations for the upcoming Central American Cup, both groups were gearing up to compete in their respective tournaments.

As first-time visitors to Nicaragua, the University of Illinois players and coaches, were thrown into a number of new experiences, from getting to know the culture and country of Nicaragua, to assisting the FSF staff in delivering our daily youth programming, to training alongside and competing against the Nicaraguan Women’s Team in preparation for each other’s coming seasons. Throughout the week, the efforts of each group targeted all tiers of the game; coaching girls ages 6-18 in Granada, many of whom are playing on their first team, as well as sharing knowledge and practice methods through joint sessions with the national team in Managua.

The week kicked off with 3 days in Granada, where the University of Illinois players got to know our FSF community through daily after school practices and team-building activities, as well as visiting local school gym classes, introducing the game to more girls. From there, the team journeyed to Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua for two international friendlies. Between these showcase matches, the teams practiced jointly, inviting local club and premier league coaches to observe.

To wrap up the week, the team returned to Granada to rejoin daily programming with FSF teams, taking time to reflect on the experiences of being an elite athlete in the US compared to the experience of their national team peers in Nicaragua. In a role reversal, the Illinois players changed from players to spectators, cheering on the FSF girls during the playoffs and finals of La Liga Escolar in Granada. When asked about their experiences, FSF’s Program Director Veronica Balladares and Illinois’ Katie Murray had this to share:

"Illinois transmite el sentimiento de Familia sobresaliendo los valores e integración a la familia." ("Illinois conveys the feeling of Family by standing out in values and integration into our familia.")
     - Veronica Balladares, Co-Director of FSF Granada

"Nicaragua was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hearts were touched, friends were made, and new perspectives were obtained, all while sharing our love for soccer."
     - Katie Murray, University of Illinois Women's Soccer

National Team & Illinois joint training session
National Team & Illinois joint training session
FSF & Illinois warm up at soccer practice
FSF & Illinois warm up at soccer practice
FSF & Illinois teams and coaches
FSF & Illinois teams and coaches
U-20 National Team & Illinois post game
U-20 National Team & Illinois post game

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Computer time
Computer time

Now in its fourth year running, our Soccer Without Borders Education Program continues to progress and grow. The FSF (Fútbol Sin Fronteras, or Soccer Without Borders in Spanish) Education program encourages girls to invest in their education by providing an all-around support system that offers daily study hours, tutoring, computer access, and scholarships for school fees and/or school supplies and uniforms.

According to UNICEF, when looking at the educational statistics across Nicaragua:

  • The primary school enrollment is 95%, but just 56% of these students will move on from primary school.  
  • The secondary school enrollment is just 49%, and of these only 47% attend regularly.

It is in this context that the FSF Education Program was created, to build a different narrative for and with the girls in our program. As the 2017 school year has just recently begun, we are thrilled to announce that the academic pass rate for our program participants in 2016 was 97%, the highest it has ever been. If we look even closer, those participants in secondary school- the most at-risk statistically- maintained a 96% academic pass rate, up from 86% last year. We continue to see uncommon outcomes among our participants, a tribute to their hard work and perseverance, and the investment that our staff mentors, coaches, and tutors have made in addressing the barriers at each stage.

Although we are proud of this restult, we continue to seek ways to improve the program, ensuring that we are reaching as many girls as could benefit from this opportunity, that our current participants are getting the most out of their education, and that they are prepared for life after secondary school. With this in mind, we are proud to announce that in 2017 we have expanded our scholarships to not only secondary school students, but primary school students as well, offering school supplies and uniforms to those who qualify. In addition, we awarded our first-ever university scholarship to Hasly P.- an 8 year veteran of the program and 2016 graduate. Hasly is now pursuing an engineering degree at a University in the capital city of Managua.

Thank you for your continued support of Soccer Without Borders in Nicaragua, and our goals on and off the field!

Hasly- University scholarship recipient
Hasly- University scholarship recipient

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Soccer Without Borders

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Mary McVeigh
Cambridge, MA United States
$66,885 raised of $75,000 goal
 
2,226 donations
$8,115 to go
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