Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty
Sports are not an easy ticket out of poverty, but sports programs for impoverished youth can provide skills, support and guidance that can strengthen individuals and communities. Developing physical, social and emotional health are just a few of the benefits that children can reap from participation in quality sports programs. Below are five youth sports programs alleviating poverty worldwide.

Five Youth Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Tiempo de Juego: Tiempo de Juego in Colombia considers the game of soccer to be a tool capable of transforming communities, developing the skills of boys and girls and inspiring them to become agents of change. Tiempo de Juego takes an academic approach to the game of soccer, identifying three areas of development: technical skills, psychosocial development and a pedagogical foundation. Through the common bond of soccer, Tiempo de Juego allies with seven local schools as well as families to bring positive social opportunities to the lives of community members. It even supports small business endeavors of families who provide goods and services such as screen-printed t-shirts and vending for soccer events.
  2. Line Up, Live Up: Line Up, Live Up is a life skill curriculum with various sports from martial arts to volleyball. The Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative sprang from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declarative and is taking roots in Palestine and Central Asia. In addition to physical exercise and teamwork, Line Up, Live Up helps kids learn life skills for resisting social pressures of drug use and delinquency. It also helps students with issues such as anxiety and communication with peers. Line Up, Live Up forms its basis from empirical research from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and also the understanding that risk factors in the lives of youth can be reduced through meaningful intervention. The belief that actual changes in attitudes and behaviors can take place drives the organization.
  3. Love Fútbol:  Love Fútbol emerged in 2006 after Drew Chafetz founded it on the platform that community-driven energy toward social change could happen on a universal passion for soccer. An avid soccer player who traveled widely, Drew noticed the unsafe and unsupervised conditions in which impoverished kids often played. Drew developed the philosophy that every child has the right to play soccer and he built that dream into fruition in a collaborative way.The first program started in Guatemala before expanding to Brazil. Each place Love Fútbol goes, the community plays a vital role in building the field and creating the program, thereby instilling their ownership in the process. Partnering with global sponsors, Love Fútbol provides funding for raw materials. In Colombia, Love Fútbol partnered with Tiempo de Juego that had the experience and the vision of implementing soccer programs in its own community but lacked the budget. Love Fútbol was able to help make its dreams a reality. The whole community built the field with the help of over 100 volunteers and 1,500 hours of labor. In another location in Mexico, the organization constructed a soccer field on the former site of a factory, bringing revitalization to the community. With well-maintained fields and supervised programs, impoverished participants can build healthier and more productive lives. Love Fútbol programs are growing throughout Latin America and these sports programs are alleviating poverty successfully.
  4. Waves for Change: Waves for Change is a unique program on this list, as it does not involve a ball game. Waves for Change is a surfing program for youth that face poor infrastructure, violence and poverty in Capetown, South Africa. Tim Conibear founded it in 2009 because he recognized that surfing was a great way to reach at-risk youth who would not otherwise have access to such activities. Primarily a mental health foundation, the program addresses the psychological and emotional well-being of kids who often experience trauma. Waves for Change teams with mental health professionals to address the issues of child mental health. Program leaders note an improvement in self-care and participation in school for those who take part in the program. Kids who grow up in gang culture are looking for risk and surfing can fulfill that need in a positive way. The organization is able to employ over 40 coaches who are former participants in the program. The activity instills pride, personal responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
  5. Cricket Program: Daniel Juarez, an accomplished cricket player in Argentina, founded Cricket Program. He established this program for the youth living in the most dangerous and impoverished slums of Argentina. Caacupe Community Center offers the cricket program. Pope Francis, formerly cardinal to Buenos Aires, is a benefactor as well as Rev. Pepe Di Paola who people know for his anti-crime work in area slums. Through the sport, kids receive an education and learn values. Some participants have developed their skills to such a high level as to qualify for national-level youth cricket teams. The organizers believe cricket provides a foundation that participants can carry with them throughout life. It even received a Best Spirit Award from the International Cricket Council.

Children worldwide have a natural drive and passion to play sports and these five sports programs are alleviating poverty worldwide. Poverty can inhibit access to good equipment, safe fields and quality instruction, but through innovative programs that engage community members and provide structure and funding, kids can experience the joy of play as well as build valuable life skills. The confidence gained can nurture lives and empower families in their rise from poverty.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr