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  • Soccer Without Borders

Soccer, Education, & Community: SWB Hub Highlights from Spring 2022

Participants and coaches from SWB Colorado's Aurora site.

No matter the time of year–whether you may find yourself in the middle of a summer heat wave or winter snow storm, a busy school semester or seasonal break–you are likely to find a Soccer Without Borders (SWB) hub that is buzzing with activity. At SWB, we are proud to offer programming that is not only cost-free for participants, but also operates year-round.

At the time of writing, summer programming is in full swing across SWB hubs. As we head into the second half of 2022, we believe that it is always important to stop, reflect, and celebrate the incredible mission moments and milestones from the first half of the year. It would, of course, be impossible to list every notable thing that happened during a busy and action-packed spring season. Instead, we are excited to share some exciting highlights from our hubs in Baltimore, Boston, Colorado, Nicaragua, Oakland, and Uganda.

Major milestones and transitions

The spring season was host to many major milestones and important transitions. More than just mere anniversaries, promotions, or moments of change, these milestones are the result of years of resilience, resolve, and resourcefulness. These milestones signify the hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteers, partners, and local communities.

  • SWB Nicaragua kicked off its 15th anniversary year of celebrations! We marked this milestone in March by hosting activities for all of SWB Nicaragua teams, totaling around 300 girls. Celebrations included special recreational and soccer activities, culminating with a “Zumbaton” (a hub-wide Zumba session).

  • Jeremiah Lukeka was named Director of SWB Uganda! Jeremiah, or "Coach Jerry" as he is better known, has held nearly every role at the hub and has been an integral part of SWB Uganda since its beginning in 2008. As he steps into his new role, Jerry continues to be motivated and inspired by the hundreds of youth participants who come to SWB programs full of hope, full of life, and full of energy.

  • After six years with the organization, this spring marked Coach Christian’s final year with SWB Oakland. Christian founded the Castlemont High School program, which has grown to be one of SWB Oakland’s largest sites. Christian has also been instrumental in centering DEI work at SWB and creating restorative programs. Thank you for everything, Christian! You will be missed and we wish you all the best for your future!

Jeremiah "Coach Jerry" Lukeka, our new SWB Uganda Director.

Soccer: Making the field an inclusive and equitable place for all

“Get them to the field”, this is one of the mantras that guides our work. We proactively work to eliminate financial, social, logistical, and cultural barriers for participants to get to the soccer field.

  • Building on the momentum of the Goal 5 Accelerator, SWB Boston reached more girls than ever during the spring season. The growing high school girls program registered a record-breaking 54 participants.

  • SWB Colorado’s Aurora site complemented its all-gender programming to include girls-specific activities. This provided female-identifying participants with a space of their own to develop their skills on the field while growing in confidence and building a community of friendships.

  • This spring, SWB Oakland held the second season of the Global Goal Five League, reaching over 100 girls in the East Bay area. This year's league included a pilot program for older female participants to be trained as paid referees to support league games.

  • Liga de Menores Mixtas, or the “Mixed Youth League”, took place at SWB Nicaragua. In this under-8 and under-12 league, soccer is promoted at an early age as a way to provide opportunities for personal growth, try new things, meet new people, exercise, and have fun. This year’s league took place over two months and included the participation of around 400 local youth.

  • SWB Uganda held the 4th Season of the Kampala Girls League from mid-April through mid-May 2022. This season’s league provided a space for 250 refugee and local Ugandan teenage girls to play the game they love.

Participants from this spring's SWB Nicaragua Mixed Youth League.

Education: personal growth and success in the classroom

We believe in a holistic approach where youth participants have the support they need to find personal success within all aspects of their life. A major component of this is educational enrichment. Tailored to the needs of the community being served, SWB provides academic and language support, high school and college preparation, leadership development, mental health education, and more.

  • At SWB Baltimore, end-of-year events were held at all local sites to celebrate a successful school year. Not only did these celebrations recognize the accomplishments of middle school graduates, but we also recognized 23 seniors who are now officially graduates of high school!

  • SWB Colorado celebrated significant growth in the capacity to serve and support participants in the classroom. This past spring you would have found six coaches dedicating several hours a day in the classroom providing valuable academic and language development support.

  • SWB Oakland celebrated the graduations of participants from seven different high schools across the Oakland area. Although some have been a part of SWB programs for years and others have joined us only recently, all graduates were celebrated as valuable members of the SWB family.

  • At SWB Uganda, Coach Fahaby completed a training on Mental Health organized by fellow Common Goal network member TackleAfrica. Three SWB girls teams, the Sharks, Dolphins, and Orcas, benefitted from 10 weeks of sessions focusing on strategies for managing mental health, seeking help, and opening up about difficult situations in life.

High school graduates from SWB Baltimore.

Community: partnering locally and globally to reflect those we serve

We aim to build community at the family, team, local, and global levels. By partnering with local schools, partner organizations, and community members, we are able to better reflect those we serve, combat social isolation, and connect participants to valuable local resources and opportunities.

  • Continuing a new tradition found at many hubs, SWB Baltimore, Boston, and Oakland each hosted Footgolf Tournament fundraisers within the local community. Not only are these tournaments an opportunity to raise funds for SWB, but they also bring together the community to learn more about SWB programming and those we serve. Oakland’s tournament brought together 50 local participants and Baltimore’s tournament included student and alumni teams to compete alongside fellow community members.

  • SWB Nicaragua continues to lead the way in alumnae engagement; over two-thirds of the coaching staff are former participants. By officially opening up opportunities for former participants to continue with the program in new ways, alumnae act as mentors to current participants and provide valuable ideas for the evolution of the program.

  • SWB Oakland was named a Project Play Champion by the Aspen Institute for their work with the Global Goal Five League. The hub will be featured in the Oakland State of Play Report (coming out on July 27) with a special feature on Castlemont High School participant Heykee Rivas Mass.

  • At SWB Uganda, this spring included an important emphasis on parent engagement. In April, we welcomed over 65 parents to the Refugee Youth Center to discuss the key issues, connect with fellow parents, and to share feedback to SWB leadership. At the gathering, parents received the results of their child’s English Literacy Examinations. Parents and guardians were thrilled about the efforts their children put in to shape their English proficiency and other social and emotional competencies.

Boston community members participating in this year's Footgolf tournament.

These highlights are just the tip of the iceberg of the incredible work that is done at SWB every day. We are grateful to everybody within the SWB community–staff, volunteers, partners, board members, donors, participants, parents, and more–for their dedication to the mission of using soccer as a vehicle for positive change. Together, we can truly build a more inclusive and equitable world where all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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