Soccer Without Borders Boston is the recipient of a 2021 Youth Development Fund grant announced this week by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Offices of Health and Human Services and Public Safety. SWB Boston is one of 34 organizations selected to receive funding to support youth development and violence prevention programming. The grant funding will enable SWB Boston to continue its mentoring of newcomer youth, particularly middle and high school boys.
“A fundamental part of our residents’ public health and public safety is expanding existing services and implementing additional strategies to increase the accessibility of youth programming and violence prevention,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m proud to work with these organizations who will complement the City’s ongoing efforts and I want to thank all of these partner organizations for their collaboration in these vital efforts.”
Soccer Without Borders is a youth development organization that uses a direct service,
youth-centered program model to create a sense of belonging through soccer. A large percentage of Soccer without Borders participants are newcomer youth, many of whom have made the difficult choice to relocate as a result of violence in their home countries.
“Upon arrival to the US, like other immigrants, refugees, and asylum seeking populations, our youth face a number of difficulties including social isolation, poverty, language difficulties, culture shock, and stressful living conditions,” said Bruno Contreras, Director, SWB Boston.
“Among other social challenges, these risk factors make them particularly vulnerable to different forms of violence in the US - from school bullying to pressure to join gangs. SWB seeks to break cycles of violence in the lives of our participants by transforming the soccer field into a living classroom where youth can express themselves, build positive individual and team identities, heal from ongoing and past trauma, and build supportive peer and mentoring relationships.”
Many youth support systems including school and extracurricular activities have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soccer Without Borders has worked to create belonging and support physical and mental health for its participants, including creating a remote “Stay Home Season” this past spring, featuring virtual practices, skills challenges, check-ins, and more. When it was safe to return to the field, SWB teams did so with health safety protocols in place.
“During this unparalleled time in history, it is more important than ever to continue to engage, mentor, and build safe spaces for newcomer youth to combat these negative feelings,” said Contreras. “Thanks to the Youth Development Funding from the City of Boston, SWB will have the resources necessary to support our middle and high school boys through the ‘Coaching Boys into Men’ curriculum from Futures Without Violence, with a particular focus on individual mentoring.”
The City of Boston has doubled funding for the Youth Development Fund in each of the past two years. Click here for more information about the grant program.