sports changing the world
Sports provide unique opportunities in a child’s life; sometimes, they are the only opportunity some children have to escape poverty. The following is a list of four sports organizations that are changing the world by using sports and sport-driven programs to help youth and communities across the globe enact social change and improve their impoverished situations.

Lengo Football Academy

Lengo Football Academy offers impoverished children and orphans in Tanzania opportunities through football. Emanuel Saakai started the first Lengo (Swahili for ‘goal’) Academy in the northern town of Arusha to give new opportunities to disadvantaged and street kids (both boys and girls). Saakai believes that the hard work necessary to excel in sports helps youths instill a sense of teamwork, respect and passion that will then translate to successes in other avenues of their lives. He has since created an eight-week program in Australia — where he acts as a qualified Football Federation Australia coach — whose proceeds go toward the program in Tanzania.

Lengo Football Academy helps its youth off the field as well. All of its participants are financially aided through primary and secondary education by Lengo. More importantly, enrollment in school is a requirement to participate in Lengo, ensuring its young footballers will go to class.

Lengo is also developing a 12-month employment program for graduating students to combat the rampant unemployment in Tanzania. The graduating students will be able to take jobs as coaches, referees, drivers, administrators and operators. They are also provided money management skills to ensure they are on their way to developing stable, successful lifestyles after the program ends.

Love.fútbol

The task of love.fútbol is to create durable, low-maintenance fútbol pitches in impoverished communities around the world. It is a community-driven endeavor. It provides the raw materials and support, but it insists that the local community helps with the building projects. For its inaugural build in Guatemala, love.fútbol saw a 90 percent participation rate in the rural village of Villa Nueva.

Love.fútbol is about more than sport. During the building process, it works with each community using asset mapping exercises to help the communities identify and use their strengths to their full potential. It also develops social capital networks, engaging the community to “connect with shared resources, building collective goodwill and strengthening relationships across numerous local individuals and organizations.” Love.fútbol and its 5,800 volunteers have had an impact on 29 communities in 8 different countries since its inception, using sports and play to bring about social change in poor communities across the globe.

Street Football World

Street Football World is like Love.fútbol in that it uses football and the model of community-driven football projects to enact social change. It even joined forces with love.fútbol in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Street Football World strives to use football-driven programs to enact social change around the world in eight key areas, ranging from employability and education to health and the environment. Street Football World even creates ‘pop-up’ stadiums and arenas for communities to use for special events and programs, providing theatres of play for impoverished youths in underprivileged areas.

The organization has a multitude of programs that span all seven continents, aiding and enabling millions of people all across the world by using football as a catalyst. Street Football World partners with a number of football institutions, companies, governments and foundations, ranging from FIFA to The U.S. Department of State. It was recently chosen as Berlin’s ambassador for Germany’s bid to host the UEFA Euro 2024 games. In 2015, founder and CEO Jürgen Griesbeck was featured alongside Nelson Mandela and Michelle Obama in Beyond Sport’s ‘Inspirational 50,’ a list celebrating those using sport to “push boundaries, inspire generations and ultimately, make the world a better place.”

Beyond Sport

Beyond Sport, based in The U.K., differs from the rest of these four sports organizations that are changing the world in that it is an advocacy group. Beyond Sport is a global organization that advocates and celebrates the use of sports to address social issues with the ultimate goal of making the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals a reality. It works with sports organizations directly, along with governments and businesses alike, on how sports can help achieve both social and business goals and successes.

Over the last decade, it has provided more than $1.5 million in funds and distributed $7 million toward long-term strategic goals. Beyond Sport has a vast network of partners, including the major U.S. sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and WNBA) that boast a whopping 2,822 projects with 2,690 organizations in 154 countries across 56 sports.

These four sports organizations that are changing the world are great examples of how engaging kids in sports activities can not only change the individual lives of those playing but also those in the communities involved. Through sports and community building activities, these organizations are improving lives around the world.

– Nick Hodges

Photo: Flickr