By: Cathlene Webster
One of Soccer Without Borders’ core programs is located in Granada, Nicaragua, where it provides year-round soccer instruction as well as team-building, cultural exchange, civic engagement, and educational support to girls between ages seven and sixteen. The staff of Nicaraguan and American coaches focuses on breaking down borders that exclude local girls from education and sport opportunities. During their seventh T.E.A.M. Camp in January 2014, SWB crossed yet another border- specifically 103 kilometers south- to host coaches from streetfootballworld partner SEPROJOVEN in Costa Rica.
SEPROJOVEN uses soccer to combat the violence and exclusion from human rights faced by girls in low resource neighborhoods in and around San Jose, Costa Rica. Its mission and programming align closely to those of Soccer Without Borders, and its participants face many of the same challenges. The program is directed by Roy Arias who worked closely in the past with SWB Local Director Josh Hardester during Josh’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer. The two linked up again to facilitate a first exchange in late November, when SWB coaches Hassell Chavez and Collin Burks participated in SEPROJOVEN’s facilitation of the Campamento Liga FEM.
Chavez enjoyed the experience, commenting, “It was good to participate because it’s similar to FSF but for girls that are really at immediate risk. I also liked that they use soccer as a way to improve the negativity, the girls seem happier when they are playing in this safe space. It was a great thing to see work similar to ours being done somewhere else.”
This January, SEPROJOVEN sent coaches Maria Alfaro, Gabriela Quesada, and Yerling Brenes to participate in the weeklong T.E.A.M. Camp in Granada. The coaches were a valuable addition to the camp, providing on field soccer instruction as well as facilitating team-building activities throughout the week. Halfway through the week, the three coaches shared a presentation about SEPROJOVEN with SWB coaches and participants. They reiterated the focus on respect and peaceful play as well as the importance of goal setting and dedication to education. In describing her experience, coach Maria Alfaro noted that although the two programs are adapted to serve the slightly different needs presented by their respective countries, there is value in collaboration with similarly minded organizations in the Latin American region.
SWB feels fortunate to have hosted such guests, and coaches have already implemented various games and activities learned from the SEPROJOVEN women into their own practices. SEPROJOVEN coach Gabriela Quesada praised the exchange, reflecting that she learned many techniques that she was excited to bring to her teams, and enjoyed the sense of solidarity felt between the two programs. She is excited at the possibility of returning to SWB in the future, and SWB shares her enthusiasm at the prospect of continued development of this partnership.