The UEFA Foundation, the governing European football association, has been instrumental in child development within the expanding country of Haiti. The UEFA Foundation has joined forces with the Goals Organization, a nonprofit that focuses on using football as a means to engage youth in Haiti. Together, they have teamed up to try and establish better health education, climate action, leadership activity, education and community service in Haiti through their joint child development program. The UEFA Foundation has donated more than 200,00 euros for the program this year. Together, UEFA Foundation and the Goals Organization are working to fight against child poverty in Haiti by improving children’s development.
The Haiti Humanitarian Crisis
The Caribbean island of Haiti has suffered a tumultuous 21st century, with a history of natural disasters, health crises and overall poverty that have impeded many from improving their living conditions. Most recently, the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 was a devastating event that resulted in more than 200,000 deaths. Rebuilding has been an ongoing process that has lacked the investment needed for Haiti to reach stable economical levels and fight child poverty in Haiti.
In a recent study from the Human Development Index, Haiti was ranked 170 out of 189 countries in terms of per capita income, the worst in the Western Hemisphere. The country has one of the world’s worst infant and maternal mortality rates. Additionally, within that same study, it was found that a child from Haiti would face a 45% of productive life due to incident educational, medical resources.
With 60% of the population living in poverty and with an increase in unstable weather conditions, Haiti has become one of the most challenging countries for young children to grow up in.
How Sport Helps At-risk Children
Sports have long proven to be beneficial in a young child’s development, from improving their social skills and sense of community to physical and cognitive growth. It has been showcased that vital childhood interaction between peers creates a bridge of communication from which children can expand their lives. As such, organized sport dictates a significant part in the fight against child poverty in Haiti and all over the world.
A recent study from Stanford Children Health showed the overall benefits that competitive and organized sports could have on children. Some of those benefits include better heart, eye and lung health, combined with a strong social and self-awareness development.
Another study from the Aspen Project emphasized how important organized sports are to a child’s development. The findings included a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and showcased a 1.8% decrease in obesity when children participate in afterschool activities and sports and an increase in immunity against 13 different cancers. Additionally, the benefits are not merely physical. There is a direct correlation between physical experience and enhanced academic behavior, according to the GAO. Neurologically, a child’s brain is more active when there is also physical activity.
Mental wellness has also risen as a major factor in recent years. Many Haitian children have suffered from difficult circumstances, which may have affected their mental health, but recent studies, like a 2020 study from The New York Times, showcase how children lacking the means for subsistence are two times more likely to report feelings of depression.
Team GOALS and The UEFA Foundation
The Team GOALS organization has partnered with the UEFA Foundation to construct an expanding soccer program that has been given the green light in 2021. As the major governing football body in Europe, UEFA established the UEFA Foundation to team up with local organizations and fight against poverty and overall oppression. This foundation creates an opportunity that many young Haitian students lack. The construction of youth soccer facilities combined with educational teaching is the springboard that the UEFA Foundation hopes can create a change in Haiti.
The UEFA Foundation has supported fundraising for this new initiative with more than 200,000 euros. The program aims to establish a community center that focuses on football as the starting point to growth. This community football center would focus on several different football-related objectives. The football initiative would also include classroom lessons on gender equality in sport, conflict resolution, rural sport and an increased initiative in exercising.
The results are expected to be very good news for the future of Haiti. The projections from the UEFA Foundation include results such as reducing pregnancy rates from 7% to 1%, engaging in physical activity for nine out of 10 children for the first time and providing nutrition and health services to children in need.
The Team GOALS organization also expects a significant increase in trees planted, six youth-led community projects and 35 literacy instruction graduates, with an additional 25 of those children receiving scholarships. Overall, the partner organizations are expecting to create a massive shift in educational, physical and financial development for the Haitian youth.
Young Haitian children in the modern era have struggled to find a foothold within a stable economic and healthy environment. When there are countries around the world with a surplus of economic and health resources, children who have only ever seen financial and medical struggle should be given a chance to succeed. The Team GOALS and the UEFA Foundation have created an excellent avenue for the new generation of Haitian children to learn and have a shot at succeeding in the mental, financial and physical aspects of their lives.