Last year, the U.K. Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure published a literature review that summarized research regarding poverty and its impact on people’s engagement with culture, arts and leisure. While it drew some fairly obvious conclusions, other findings were insightful and thought-provoking.

The first object of research was measuring how much poverty impacts people’s participation in sports. It found that adults who lived under the poverty line played fewer sports for far less time. These findings replicated those in similar studies in Canada and Australia. The lack of involvement in sports is believed to increase health risks such as obesity that are already present in lower income groups.

Some people blamed the lack of sports facilities provided in their neighborhoods. Financial and logistical barriers are a constraint. Sports equipment and transportation to and from facilities may cost extra money that the family cannot afford to spend. Moreover, parents who work more than one job find it difficult to take the time out to supervise their children, especially if their neighborhood is perceived as unsafe.

Another reason for poorer people’s reluctance to take part in sports is that they are simply not interested in them, as a study in Ireland concluded. Research in Australia demonstrated that even with ease of access to facilities and training, lower income children and adults were still less likely to play sports than their middle and upper income counterparts.

The second objective of the research was to determine how poverty impacts people’s engagement with arts, libraries and museums. Unsurprisingly, people living under the poverty line were less likely to be interested in or involved in their community’s culture. Even libraries, which are free and open to the public, see lower levels of engagement from poorer people. Children living in poverty are more likely to use the computer or TV for entertainment.

In addition to the obvious barriers of transportation costs and time constraints (for adults), poorer people frequently voiced the view that arts was for “other people and not for them.” They reported feeling out of place and uninterested. In their daily lives, art was perceived as being completely irrelevant.

To fight the main barriers to engagement in sports and culture—a dearth of facilities, extra costs and a lack of interest—the literature review recommends a few solutions: community-based solutions, personal and trusting relationships between mentors and participants, and lower costs.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: UK Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Art Council of Wales 
Photo: Poverty and the Arts

z1 village
Roger Federer is an all-star on and off the court, scoring major points for his contributions to ending global poverty.

The tennis player recently visited Malawi to check out the progress of the preschools built through his nonprofit, the Roger Federer Foundation. The Swiss athlete created the charity 10 years ago to help poverty stricken countries in Southern Africa.

The organization is committed to providing quality education for all children, seeing education as a basic and necessary human right. As a supporter of the Early Childhood Development program in Malawi, the Roger Federer Foundation is making major progress in providing quality education for primary learners.

In Malawi, they’ve built 50 preschools and benefited 37,000 children. During his visit to the country, Federer sat in on classes, helped out in the kitchen and played with the kids during recess. He also had the opportunity to attend the launching of a new childcare facility.

Federer and his foundation aren’t just about sending funds to build preschools; they want to see the impact they are making and physically be apart of making education happen. In addition to their work in Southern Africa, the organization also promotes quality education in impoverished areas of Switzerland, Federer’s home country.

The Roger Federer Foundation believes that the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and would like to empower children affected by poverty by providing them a sustainable and accessible education. So far, the foundation has benefitted 215,000 children in seven countries, with plans to reach a million children by 2018.

Quality education is fundamental to ending the cycle of global poverty. Education contributes to sustainable living and stronger livelihoods, and preschool education serves as the foundation of learning.

Despite his tough loss at Wimbledon, Federer proves admirable success through the accomplishments of his foundation in bringing education to impoverished youths.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Independent, Roger Federer Foundation 1, Roger Federer Foundation 2

Newly Formed "Sports & Rights Alliance" Advocacy Group-TBP
The Sports & Rights Alliance (SRA) is a newly formed coalition of NGO’s focused around preserving human rights in relation to global sporting events. The list of issues the SRA advocates for includes, but is not limited to: ending citizen displacement from sport infrastructure, imprisoning protesters, exploitation of workers, unethical bidding practices and environmental destruction.

The SRA is composed of various international NGO’s such as Amnesty International, FIFPro – World Players’ Union, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, Supporters Direct Europe, Greenpeace, Transparency International Germany and Terre des Hommes.

This past February, the SRA penned a letter to the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stressing an adherence to the principles regarding the 2020 and 2024 games. The approved standards mandated by the International Labor Organization was a point of emphasis in addition to increased oversight and inspections for human rights conditions. For the bidding process, the letter requested robust efforts to maintain and enforce ethical business and anti-corruption in choosing a host city.

The IOC met this past February in Brazil to discuss “Agenda 2020,” the strategic outline for the future of the Olympics, which was passed by the committee in December of 2014. The closing of bid registration for the 2024 Olympic games is set for September of 2015 so the timing is most appropriate.

Many recent international games have come under intense scrutiny for similar violations. Free speech issues and poor treatment of their LGBT community has cast many questions and doubts regarding Russia’s selection as 2018 World Cup host. The 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were tarnished due exploitation of workers, suppression of free speech and corruption. The SRA cites these as examples of a divergence from what international sport and competition should stand for and symbolize.

Additionally, the inaugural European Games are currently being held in Baku, Azerbaijan causing concern and objection throughout the continent. The country has a questionable human rights record and in recent months, government protesters, human rights advocates and international journalists have been detained and imprisoned on inflated charges. This causes great concern for the international community and for Europe in particular.

Another letter written to the President of the European Olympic Committee stressed the immediate and unconditional release of all current activists and journalists who are imprisoned. Furthermore, the letter called for an end to ongoing intimidations, detainments and persecutions of the aforementioned individuals.

FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host has also been met with serious concern and criticism. In lieu of a pre-existing Football infrastructure, the country has relied upon migrant laborers to build multiple stadiums to host the Cup. This arrangement of labor is common throughout the Arabic Peninsula and known as the “kafala” system and is likened to modern day slavery.

FIFA has been inconsistent in their actions to condemn working conditions. The organization has stated their concern for the workers welfare, but also deny responsibility for their treatment. Referring to the government contractors, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, is quoted as saying “they are responsible for their workers.”

Before the FIFA Presidency election, the SRA wrote to President Sepp Blatter and his three opponents citing their grave concern for the condition of the workers. The letter included a questionnaire about their views on the current state of human rights in their sport. It also called for the victor in the election to take action to rectify any violations in the first 100 days of their presidency.

The SRA has proven to quickly become a powerful voice in international sports relations and gathered a following through their advocate efforts. Regarding the allegiance to human rights principles, the SRA have consistently ended their letters by saying, “All these standards should not be based on goodwill, but must be non-negotiable and absolutely binding for all stakeholders.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: The Globe And Mail, Human Rights Watch 1, Human Rights Watch 2, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

How Yuwa Empowers Girls in India Through Football-TBP
India currently has the highest number of child brides on the planet, with 47 percent of girls married before they turn 18. The practice is more common in rural areas. In some states, the number reaches 69 percent. The rate of marriages is increasing for girls between the ages of 15 and 18.

There are many factors that account for this high number of child brides. Oppressive gender roles in India’s patriarchal society make it difficult for girls to pursue other options. They are typically expected to be mothers and care for the entire household. Girls often receive little schooling and have lower rates of literacy. It can be difficult for them to find work and become financially independent, so they have no choice but to marry young and depend on their husband while being burdened with domestic responsibilities. Families may also push girls to get married young out of concern for their safety and “honor.”

Child brides face risks to their mental, physical, and emotional health. Since many become pregnant at a young age, they are more likely to die in childbirth. They also have a greater chance of contracting HIV. They suffer more domestic violence: Indian child brides are twice as likely to be abused than girls who marry after 18. They also face higher rates of sexual abuse, and often exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as hopelessness and depression.

The Yuwa organization, an NGO based in the state of Jharkhand, is dedicated to using football (soccer) as a means to promote social development and discourage child marriage. Citizens of Jharkhand struggle with poverty and illiteracy, and it is a dangerous place for young women to grow up. Yuwa was founded in 2009, and since the program began, it has had 600 members. Currently, 250 girls participate in the program, with 150 practicing on a daily basis.

Through Yuwa, girls can organize new football teams or join an already existing team. Players collectively choose a team captain, who is responsible for tracking attendance. If a girl suddenly drops out or shows up less and less, her teammates can contact her to help her through whatever is keeping her from practice.

Yuwa’s program goes beyond football. They also work to educate girls so they can strive for a future beyond child marriage. Girls can attend their academic bridge program, which provides classes in math, science, and English, and computers. They also provide summer school and personal tutoring, and assist with transferring girls to better schools. Furthermore, Yuwa holds hour-long weekly workshops that focus on teaching life skills. These workshops are run by local female staff or other Yuwa girls, and they cover topics such as health, gender, gender-based violence, sexuality, self-esteem, and basic finances.

Yuwa’s primary objective is to inspire girls to take their futures into their own hands so they can fight child marriage, illiteracy, and human trafficking. Girls and their coaches can meet with their families to discuss options beyond marriage. Although some parents are not understanding at first, and want their daughters to follow the conventional path, many change their minds and begin to push for better futures for their daughters.

The Yuwa girls have seen success on and off the field. In 2013, a Yuwa team placed 4th in an under-14 tournament in Spain, and in 2014, they were invited to Schwan’s USA cup. Although football is not enough to undo all of the inequalities that Indian women struggle with on a daily basis, Yuwa’s girls are helping change attitudes and inspire girls to strive for new opportunities.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: Foundation for Sustainable Development, Girls Not Brides, The Guardian, International Center for Research on Women, Yuwa
Photo: Yuwa

major league baseball
On Oct. 25, 1971, a fifth child was born to Dominicans Paolino Martinez, a janitor, and Leopoldina Martinez, a laundress—a couple who had to raise their children in a dwelling that had a tin roof and dirt floors. Forty years and nearly $150 million in career earnings later, that child would return to his hometown Manoguayabo to build schools, roads, homes and churches through a charity he founded.

The story of Pedro Martinez, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball’s history, spurs innumerable poor Dominican youths to play the game. Poverty and poor economic prospects motivates them to put in the requisite hours of practice, and a large baseball infrastructure, which includes training academies developed by Major League teams, validates these youths’ dreams of wealth.

Or maybe the numbers alone are validation.

An article in the International Business Times reported the average salary of major leaguers to be $3.4 million. Compare that to the annual income of a Dominican worker: $5,130.

Of the 224 foreigners playing for Major League Baseball in 2014, 83 hail from the Dominican Republic. The DR beat historical baseball powerhouses Cuba (19), Puerto Rico (11) and Venezuela (59) for the title of top overseas producer of major leaguers.

It is unclear if this success will translate into significant poverty reduction back in the DR.

Certainly, the DR’s economy has been growing in the recent past. If one ignores the relatively minor economic crisis of 2003 – “minor” in terms of impact on GDP – GDP growth has been impressive in past years: “9.5 percent in 2005, 10.7 percent in 2006 and 8 percent in 2007,” according to one study.

However, that same study concluded the MLB’s impact on this economic growth was marginal compared to the effect of remittances and the development of a tourist economy, though the construction of baseball academies does always create jobs.

In any case, poverty has remained a persistent problem in the DR despite the country’s economic growth. 40.9 percent of the population is at or below the national poverty line. Half of all children are impoverished. The tourist economy has failed to create jobs for the masses of poor, with unemployment at 15 percent.

Thus, the MLB will continue to be a source of hope for many Dominicans. To Dominican players, a signing bonus of $5,000-$8,000 on its own is worth the time investment. Should their career end shortly after receiving such a bonus, at least they received enough money to support their families or to invest in a business enterprise.

And, of course, each player might just be the next Pedro Martinez.

Unfortunately, the hope that such possibilities inspire is intermixed with desperation. In their hunger to secure a better life for themselves and for their families, many Dominican players have turned to using steroids, which are relatively easy to procure in the DR. Drug usage is seen by many young Dominicans as a way to “cheat the system,” and wherever desperation exists, people are likely to try to cheat.

“Buscones” are another source of controversy in Dominican baseball. These player agents find talent, develop it and take a cut of any signing bonuses. The players that make it to the MLB mostly express their gratitude to these agents, but buscones also “have been accused of corruption, embezzlement and feeding steroid drugs to young prospects,” according to an article by Palash Ghosh at the International Business Times.

One cannot conclude from all of this that the MLB will have much to do with the eradication of poverty in the DR, but one also cannot deny the organization’s potential to do both good and bad in the country.

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: George Mason University, MLB, The World Bank, Forbes, International Business Times, Baseball Reference, Boston Globe, SABR, Huffington Post
Photo: Latin Trends

Fresh off of his World Cup win, German soccer player Mesut Ozil has partnered with Big Shoe to help provide Brazilian children access to surgery. Initially, Ozil had pledged to support 11 surgeries, one for each player on the field, but he increased his promise to 23 surgeries. Each surgery signifies the effort of one of the 23 players of the German national team.

Ozil isn’t the only representative of the soccer world to support the organization. United States national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann also voiced his support for the initiative.

Ozil is expected to donate his FIFA World Cup winnings, approximately $600,000 according to The Telegraph, to aid ill children in Brazil. Throughout the World Cup, the German national team bonded with the Brazilian people.

In the aftermath of the World Cup, many FIFA players have felt this same warmth and generosity toward the host nation.

The Big Shoe Initiative, which Ozil aligned himself with, was founded in 2006 around the time of Germany’s own World Cup. The organization relies on both donations and efforts of countless doctors in order to provide access to surgery for impoverished children. Ozil’s video campaign for the Big Shoe Initiative, a video now on YouTube and many social media websites, has helped garner attention for the nonprofit.

For its work in Brazil, the Big Shoe Initiative hopes to raise enough money to pay for 100 future surgeries.

The surgeries performed by the organization include burn and scar tissue removal, cleft palate corrections and congenital heart and limb disorders among others. The medical treatments are often either too expensive or too specialized for the regions in which the Big Shoe Initiative works.

The World Cup rejuvenated attention and support for the Big Shoe Initiative. Ozil’s generous donation, in particular, will help the organization begin to realize the potential of its coming impact in Brazil.

– Kristin Ronzi
Sources: Big Shoe, The Telegraph,  YouTube
Photo: The Telegraph

Although not yet confirmed, there have been reports that the Algerian national football team will donate their World Cup prize money to the Gaza Strip.

Islam Slimani, renowned striker for the Algerian team, supposedly announced after their loss in the round of 16 that they will give their estimated $9 million prize money to Gaza.

If the reports are true, the team may be accused of bringing politics into sports. Last month, FIFA announced Argentina would face disciplinary action after the team presented a political banner prior to a match against Slovenia bearing the phrase “The Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.”

Since 2007, poverty and unemployment have increased greatly in Gaza, a territory self-ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. About 1.2 million people out of the 1.8 million that live in the Gaza Strip live in refugee camps.

Poverty has been the only way of life for 50-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Ashqar, who lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Ashqar primarily depends on the education, health care and food rations provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He has asked UNRWA many times to save his house, but his calls have been met with no success.

“The walls may collapse anytime, they would seriously fall down over our heads if I do not make some repair from time to time,” al-Ashqar said. “I have asked many organizations, including UNRWA, which is the care taker of refugees, to help us restore the house, but they all gave us a cold shoulder.”

Algeria’s alleged donation to the impoverished people of Gaza would help people like Mahmoud al-Ashqar. “They need it more than us,” Slimani said.

The Israel-Palestine issue is complicated, due to a long history of territory disputes and religious conflict. Violence has once again erupted from both sides and international organizations are actively working to quell tensions.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: The Independent, Daily Mail, The National, PressTV, Global Post
Photo: Fox Sports
Photo: International Business Times

asylum in brazil
The World Cup is over for another four years, and while Germany celebrates and fans from all over the world return home, at least 200 Muslims from Ghana are seeking asylum in Brazil.

The Ghanaians, who went to Brazil as tourists supporting their country in the World Cup, claim that they are afraid to return home due to violence in Ghana stemming from religious conflict. The Ghanaian government has released a statement saying that there is no such violence in the country.

The religious makeup of Ghana is 71 percent Christian, 18 percent Muslim and 5 percent indigenous beliefs. The Muslim population resides primarily in northern Ghana, which coincidentally is also where poverty rates are highest. Southern Ghana has seen promising economic growth in the past 30 years and in 2011 the country received the status of lower middle class, but poverty in the north is declining at a much slower rate.

A major reason for this is little economic opportunity outside of agriculture, and a tendency for droughts and food shortages. Farmers in the north do not have access to modern technology that would result in higher crop yields.

The Ghanaians have been allowed to stay in Brazil for now, while the Justice Ministry listens to their cases and makes rulings. The Brazilian city in which many have applied to live, Caxias do Sul, is a very prosperous one and a magnet for foreign workers. It is more than 1000 miles away from where Ghana’s national team, the Black Stars, competed in the tournament. The Stars were ousted early on after losing to both the USA and Portugal.

The number of Ghanaians seeking asylum in Brazil could jump to 1000 now that the World Cup is over, but to be given asylum they will have to prove that conditions in their home country are unsafe. Ghana is frequently cited as one of Africa’s most peaceful nations, with cooperation between Muslims and Christians. However, those seeking asylum claim that the conflict and aggression is between different Muslim factions and not other religions. Whether or not their claims are true or they are simply searching for a new life with better economic opportunity remains to be seen. The Ghanaian government has proclaimed that they are scandalized by the ordeal.

While the Justice Ministry reviews these cases there are many Syrians in Brazil seeking asylum for the same reasons. Those who live in Caxias do Sul do not seem particularly open to the idea of hundreds of new residents, saying that the area is overcrowded as it is.

– Taylor Lovett

Sources: New York Times, BBC, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: London Evening Standard

sadili oval sports academy
Many nongovernmental organizations currently doing work in Africa utilize the power of sports to help positively shape the lives of those who live in poverty and slums across the continent. However, very few of these organizations are like the social enterprise that is the Sadili Oval Sports Academy. What makes the Academy so unique is that it offers underprivileged children from nearby slums the opportunity to develop their skills and potentially become a professional athlete.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the Sadili Oval Sports Academy purchased the land they currently operate on in 1992, and after several years of development opened their doors to the public in 1998. The name “Sadili” comes from the Kiswahili term that roughly translates to “well-being,” which guides their current mission to this day. The indigenous, nonprofit and community-driven sports center utilizes the power of sports and education to empower youth to improve their lifestyles and and ensure a better future. Because the Academy borders the largest slum in Nairobi, Kibera, the Academy targets these children and caters its programs toward them. Currently, the Academy is the only place for these children to play sports.

Because the Sadili Oval Sports Academy is a unique social enterprise, it also contains a separate, for-profit branch. Thanks to this separate yet linked branch, the profit that comes from it is then used to help subsidize many of their non-profit programs.

The Academy also has a variety of programs, which includes the Slum Tennis Project (which is designed to help develop talent and potential professional athletes), Sports for Life, African Child Sport and Education Fund, and a Girl Power Club. Through focusing on vulnerable groups like the Kibera slum, the Academy has been able to reach 67 different secondary schools across the city of Nairobi.

Outside of sports, the Academy also has a distinct environmental focus. The land where the Academy currently stands was once a sewage area, which is part of why it took so long to develop and build the facilities. The buildings and gymnasium are constructed of recycled materials, and many of the programs offered by the Academy incorporate environmental themes.

Through capitalizing on the power of sports and instilling important lessons about lifestyle, the environment and leadership, the Sadili Oval Sports Academy has already made a difference in the lives of many and stands to do more of the same in the future.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: SadiliE, Al Jazeera, Women Win
Photo: Tripadvisor