This month, we take a closer look at the SWB program in the Solola region of Guatemala. SWB has been working in the community of Santa Maria El Tablon for just over a year now. The program focuses on supporting indigenous youth through soccer programming, leadership development and team building activities and hopes to expand to include other educational components with time. While the program is still young, it has been very well recieved and integrated into the community, and a strong foundation has been laid for the future. A large part of the program's success has been the commitment and passion of Luis Alberto Palacios, the program director for SWB in Guatemala. In addition to his work with SWB, Luis is a poet and a writer and is very interested in the improvement of his community and his country as a whole. Not of indigenous heritage himself, Luis is unusual in his commitment to bridging the divide between indigenous communities and the Landino population. Currently, Luis is working in Santa Maria El Tablon with SWB volunteers Christina Thompson and Chris Metcalf. We asked Luis to share more about himself an his work below:
How long have you been working with children and youth?
LAP: I started in the last days of November 2007 to work with 8 young boys and girls from the small and beautful community of Santa Marìa El Tablòn.
How long have you been working with Soccer Without Borders?
LAP: I have 1 year and trhee months representing SWB in Guatemala. And in September of 2008, I received Andres and Robin, the first volunteers that arrived in Sololá from SWB.
Why do you think it is important to do community work?
LAP: Because the whole society needs it. If the rural areas grow up the country grows up. The rural communities need education, art, entertainment, in order to live a dignified life.
What has been the highlight of working with Soccer Without Borders so far?
LAP: I can see it in all those kids faces, these smiles, these dreams... it's amazing to see how so many people love football (soccer) in Guatemala, and this country has never been in a world cup tournament! I think it's because here, there are not opportunities to discover new talents all around the country and that's because the authorities in Guatemala are managed by a blind elite who receives a big budget from the government with few or no results. So maybe in the future SWB can be the key for to open new doors for people who usually don't have access to sports.
What are some benefits you have seen in the community of Santa Maria since we have been working there?
LAP: Healthy body is a healthy mind, so I think the kids are investing a good time practicing a sport, they are also knowing the meaning of organizing as a community. They are meeting some new friends, reaching out from all those poverty problems that they have everyday. This way they can clear their minds while they are playing.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the SWB community?
LAP: Always think positive and that everything is possible, don't never give up the fight for your dreams!!! And work hard for to make it come true. Peace to you all!