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President of Kenya Launches Campaign to Address HIV-Related Stigma
The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, launched a new HIV-related stigma campaign at State House, in Nairobi, in order to raise awareness and mobilize young people to be HIV tested, treated and cared for in case of a positive diagnosis.

The national initiative called “Kick out HIV stigma” occurs during the Kenyan Maisha County Football League. The Maisha County Football League is a nationwide 30-week project that aims to diminish HIV infections among young people by using the power of sports in order to terminate HIV.

HIV is considered to be the most crucial and severe health threat dominating people in Kenya. Specifically, it is estimated that during 2015, there have been 35,776 HIV infections and 3,853 deaths among young people aged 15 to 24.

Stigma that is related to HIV remains one of the most vital barriers and concerns for young people who are diagnosed. The HIV-related stigma campaign is a collaboration among the Football Kenya Federation, the government, the U.N., the civil society and finally the Kuza Biashara, a company that focuses on innovative digital technology.

The campaign’s strategy focuses on developing 1,426 football matches in which young people participate from 47 countries and 200,000 people will be worldwide reached every week. By the end of the program, on Dec. 1, the Maisha County League Awards will arise in which both regional and international football winners will be announced by Kenya’s president as part of a celebration of the World AIDS Day.

Eliza Karampetian-Nikotian

Photo: Flickr

Para-soccer Brings Hope to Nigerian Polio Survivors
Nigeria has recently reached the milestone of being polio-free for a year, however, the disease has left thousands of survivors handicapped. Although there is not a definite number on polio survivors in Nigeria, the Nigerian Association of Polio Survivors has almost a million members.

In a culture with little community support for polio survivors, para-soccer has brought joy and purpose into the lives of Nigerian polio survivors.

Musbahu Lawan Didi, a polio survivor, originally created para-soccer in 1988. It was called ground handball at the time. After the Nigeria Association for the Disabled (N.S.A.S) heard about the game, it was promoted and expanded internationally.

The Women Federation of World Peace (WFWP) brought attention to the sport as well when the organization helped set up matches for the teams.

The first lady of Adamawa State, Dr. Halima Nyako, also helped in spreading the name of para-soccer. She sponsored the compilation of the rules and regulations into a booklet.

Slowly but surely the sport began to build. The Federal Ministry of Sports and Social Development officially approved the Para-soccer Federation of Nigeria to be a national sport federation in 2006.

Now the sport has international leagues in Ghana, Niger and Cameroon as well as national leagues within Nigeria. There are more than 24 state associations involved in para-soccer.

Through para-soccer, survivors who would otherwise be begging on the streets are able to make some money to help support their families. “Para-soccer has been an effective alternative to polio victims begging for alms to survive,” Didi said in a speech during the National Para-Soccer Championship in 2013.

Para-soccer is also being used as a tool to spread awareness about polio and the importance of vaccinations. Every year on World Polio Day there is a national para-soccer championship.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Al Jazeera, Bloomberg Business, NBF, Parasoccer Nigeria, Reuters, Time
Photo: Google Images

FC Barcelona, Global Citizen, Gates Foundation Unite to Combat Poverty
Although athletics are intended to be competitive, they have a unique way of bringing people together; a shared love for that game or passion for a team unites people across the globe. The most universally uniting sport, however, must be soccer.

Almost every kid ever participated in peewee soccer – remember the oranges at halftime? The game is played all over the world, professionally, collegiately and friendly. The international phenomenon is a simple concept (kick ball, score goal), perhaps one of the main reasons for its timeless universal success.

Soccer is global, and as one of the greatest teams in professional soccer, F.C. Barcelona is globally recognized for its international fan base and crazy-talented players, like Lionel Messi. Barcelona, however, is not solely praised for its talent on the field. The team is also receiving well-deserved credit for its efforts to end global poverty.

The F.C. Barcelona Foundation was founded in 1994 and gives Barcelona the opportunity to give back globally. All projects developed by the organization are centered on sports and promote quality education and positive values. The efforts of the organization benefit children and adolescents of Catalonia and the world.

The recently announced partnership between the F.C. Barcelona Foundation, Global Citizen and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will empower people to take action to end extreme global poverty.

These three major powerhouses will surely make a profound difference in many lives and raise awareness about the realities of poverty. The partnership will work in alignment with the United Nations Development Goals to eradicate poverty by 2030.

Sports have the unique ability to unite people from all walks of life. Mix that with advocacy and activism – a real game-changer. Together, Barcelona, Global Citizen and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation unite to change the world and encourage others to play hard against poverty.

Barcelona just scored a stellar goal.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Global Citizen, FC Barcelona
Photo: FCFoundation

soccer_and_Global_Poverty
Soccer unites people. It is one of the few things that crosses social, geographic, ethnic and religious boundaries. It is widely understood and played by many. This is why Uncharted Play tapped into the love of soccer to make a difference in the world. They believed in the power of play.

Uncharted Play was founded in 2011 with the strong belief that through the pursuit of play and happiness, they could create something that “would show the world how play could be a tangible tool for inspiring social invention.”

The two founders of Uncharted Play, Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman, met during their junior year at Harvard University, where they teamed up to create the SOCCKET as a class project.

The SOCCKET is a soccer ball with an LED light and a plug off the side. It has a mechanism on the inside that converts kinetic energy to electricity, which powers an LED light for three hours after just thirty minutes of play.

Uncharted Play’s first large-scale success was in Mexico in March 2013, where the largest television station, Televisa, gave out 150 SOCCKETs for free at a ceremony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtgpRo-Jd5k

However, the first big problem that users ran into with the SOCCKETs was the invention’s low durability. Uncharted Play took this into account and began making improvements. Matthews said, “We’re not Nike. We’re not Walmart… We’re a group of eight people in an apartment in New York City.” She later added, “Things may not always go right, but we are always, always, always… trying to do our best and doing it for the bigger picture.”

Since the creation of the SOCCKET in 2008 and the establishment of Uncharted Play in 2011, they have created a second product—energy-storing jump ropes—and have improved on the first.

Uncharted Play recognized that nearly 1.2 billion people live without electricity and sought to find a solution that not only reduced this number, but also increased happiness. The SOCCKETs are used to light homes and help children do their homework, and most importantly, it gets the kids out to play. Here, soccer and global poverty truly do collide—with positive results.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: Smithsonian, Public Radio International, Uncharted Play, World Bank
Photo: Development Crossing

Source via a nice article published in SoccerTimes

UNICEFAt an event presented by FC Barcelona and UNICEF, soccer players Andrés Iniesta and Marc-André Ter Stegen met with Los Angeles kids to discuss the importance of children’s education.

The FC Barcelona players shared with the kids their thoughts and memories of playing soccer during their school days. Iniesta and Ter Stegen donned their red, yellow and blue team colors during the meeting and answered questions after their initial comments.

On the players’ jerseys, the UNICEF logo can be seen, signifying FC Barcelona’s involvement and association with the organization. Iniesta, FC Barcelona’s midfielder, said that he is proud to be linked with an important organization like UNICEF.

“For us as individuals, and as a club, it’s an honor to wear the jersey because of the values that UNICEF represents,” he said.

In addition, Iniesta voiced his and UNICEF’s similar opinions about the value of education in children’s lives.

“Alongside UNICEF, we want to reinforce the importance of providing the most vulnerable children with access to education,” Iniesta said. “Especially as parents, we are aware that children are the most precious things in our lives. It’s difficult knowing that there are children in other countries who don’t have the same opportunities.”

In agreement with his teammate, Ter Stegen, the team’s goalkeeper, noted the significance of education with his personal testimony.

“I had a lot of coaches and each of them advised me how to reach my goals,” he said. “But it’s not enough to have coaches or just to play soccer: education has been really important for me.”

UNICEF’s choice to partner with FC Barcelona was a strategic one. According to Quora, a question and answer website, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. An estimated 3.5 billion people are either fans of the sport or watch the sport.

By teaming up with one of the most popular clubs in professional soccer, UNICEF gains an unfathomable amount of notoriety by people who have the ability to make a change.

UNICEF and FC Barcelona first began their partnership in September 2006, and since then, the FC Barcelona Foundation has donated more than 12 thousand euros, or a little over $13,000.

The programs put in place by the organizations have aided in improvements in health for several countries in Africa and South America where sports are an integral part of a child’s physical and mental development. UNICEF and FC Barcelona have helped create better education systems for children and greater training programs for teachers.

Albert Soler, Director of Professional Sports of FC Barcelona, said that these projects have created a monumental amount of educational opportunity.

“Through these programs, more than 300,000 children are being reached,” Soler said.

According to a New York Times article, students who play sports in school tend to perform better later in life.

“Participating in sports, like playing in the school band or competing on the debate team, are cognitively and organizationally demanding activities that help convey self-discipline and leadership skills,” the article said.

In agreement with The New York Times, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Regional Managing Director, Amber Hill, said that the power of sports has helped children all over the world receive an education that fosters the skills needed to succeed.

“All children have the right to learn,” Hill said. “The focus of the FC Barcelona and UNICEF partnership is creating a world inspired by the power of quality education, where sports and play are key elements in the development of all children.”

With the help of Iniesta, Ter Stegen and all of the UNICEF and FC Barcelona supporters, thousands of children are receiving a quality education. Sports have always played an important role in a child’s development. Now it can be said that sports, like soccer, have helped children succeed in education and in life.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: FC Barcelona, Look to the Stars, The New York Times, Quora
Photo: Flickr

Nwankwo Kanu
Nwankwo Kanu is not only the former captain of the Nigerian national soccer team, but he also goes to a great length in doing charity work. Born in Nigeria, he started to show his soccer talent on the Dutch Ajax team by scoring 25 goals in 54 performances in his first year in Ajax. He also led the Nigerian team win the Olympic Gold Medal in 1996. He was named African Footballer of the Year in the same year. In his charity path, he launched Kanu Heart Foundation, which he claimed as his proudest achievement. At the same time, he is a UNICEF ambassador.

Just after winning the Olympics, he was diagnosed with a heart valve defect, underwent surgery and did not return to his career for almost a year. Because of his experience, he started his Kanu Heart Foundation to make sure children with heart problems are able to obtain heart surgeries, especially underprivileged children in Africa. Through this organization, hospitals provide surgical heart transplants, laser surgeries and more.

“These kids remind me of when I was growing up as a little boy,” Kanu said to BBC Sport. “There’s no amount of success on the football pitch that can give me more smiles than the numbers of lives I’ve touched.” He wants to put smiles on the face of every child who deserves the chance to pursue their dreams.

According to its official website, the Kanu Heart Foundation has undertaken 452 open heart surgeries since the foundation was first established in 2000. All sponsored surgeries are done in countries such as England, Israel, India and Sudan. The Cardiac Specialist Hospital will offer free surgeries for children from 1 to 12 years old and those for adults will be subsidized.

– Jing Xu

Sources: BBC News, Wikipedia, Kanu Heart Foundation 1, Kanu Heart Foundation 2
Photo: Connect Nigeria

prostitution-increases-for-world-cup
Prostitution has increased during the World Cup as Brazilian women are turning to prostitution for the lucrative duration of the competition, which takes place June 12 – July 13 throughout 12 cities in the host country. Five to 6 of Brazil’s top cities are the targets of these workers, many of whom took up prostitution just before the tournament started.

The women are reported to be taking English classes to converse with clients from English-speaking countries. Interviews with some of the prostitutes revealed that many of them, especially the younger women, have high hopes of being swept off to another country and a more comfortable lifestyle as the result of a transaction.

Maria, an 18-year-old student, stated to a journalist, “I’m here to find a gringo to take me away and give me a quiet life. I do not want luxury but just to live with a little more dignity and to help my family.”

England fans seem to be the biggest target for the girls who can be seen in brothels, near the beaches and amongst street vendors near the football stadiums, some even wearing English football team shirts.

While some of the women have dreams of being whisked away by a wealthy foreigner, all the women have their own reasons for taking up the profession, whether temporarily or permanently. Some women have seen an opportunity to earn extra money; some have a more severe need for the income.

One woman, according to social worker Cleide Almeida in Vila Mimosa, took on prostitution as a second job due to financial necessity after her husband passed away. It is legal for women in Brazil to sell sex if they are over the age of 18, but women as old as 77 are reported to work in the industry. Many foreign clients are looking for something they can’t get legally, however, and underage workers are often available by delivery to various hotels.

There are 120,000 sex workers in the state of Rio, and Almeida expects trade to double to 10,000 serviced men per day during the World Cup. Women are charging the equivalent of about $27 for a half hour of their time and $44 for an hour.

The World Cup is one of the world’s most celebrated occasions, and for good reason. Through competition, the football tournament unites nations for a month of good sport and excited nationalism. Whether increased prostitution can provide access to money for these women or not, the trend reflects bigger issues concerning demand for sex work and lack of other opportunities.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: IBN Live, Mirror OnlineLiverpool Echo
Photo: Flickr

soccer_stars
As John Oliver so eloquently stated, for any fanatical fan, soccer (or football) is not just a sport; it’s a religion, and the players are gods. They are symbols of faith and inspiration. They are the key holders of success, the gatekeepers of heaven. But unlike the biblical God, a glorified, elusive entity, these gods started from humble beginnings. It was indeed their supernatural gift that elevated them to deity. Here are five soccer “gods” that ascended to become soccer stars despite impoverished roots.

Rivaldo

Growing up in the northeast port town of Recife, one of Brazil’s most poverty-ridden slums, Rivaldo endured the hardship that comes with poverty. Due to malnourishment, he lost several teeth and was left bow-legged. His passion for football was his vehicle for prevailing through adversity. When he was 16 he signed his first professional contract with Paulistano and from then on, he rose to stardom. He competed in the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, helping Brazil reach the final round both years.

Pelé

One of the greatest legends of the game, Pelé too was raised in the unforgiving streets of Brazil. With not enough money to invest in his own soccer ball, he improvised by using a sock stuffed with newspaper or a grapefruit. Talent and grit were the ingredients for his successes. Throughout his career, he was elected “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and in 1999 was voted “Player of the Century.” Since his retirement, he has been a worldwide advocate for the promotion of soccer as a vehicle for change in developing countries.

Diego Maradona

Raised in the shantytown of Villa Fiorito, Argentina, Maradona shared one bedroom with all seven of his siblings. He did not receive any formal education; football was his only hope. In his astounding career, he played in four FIFA World Cups, was recognized for his “Goal of the Century” and was crowned FIFA “Player of the Century.”

Salomon Kalou

A current member of the Cote d’Ivoire national team, Kalou was raised in a nation in which 42.7 percent of citizens live below the poverty line. He rose to international prominence for his exceptional ability on the soccer field. Aside from serving as a figurehead of faith, he has taken an active role in inspiring his people and alleviating poverty. In 2010, he established the Kalou Foundation, which provides social services and recreation facilities for vulnerable populations.

Samuel Eto’o

Though he lived better than many in a country rampant with poverty, Eto’o began his career in Cameroon as a “street footballer.” He has since risen to be the highest paid player in the world, earning $17 million per year. His well-earned money goes toward his foundation, which funds development work in Africa.
These soccer stars have utilized their high profiles to inspire and ignite change. The good thing about the religion of soccer is that there is no hierarchy; there is no secret attribute that all of the gods possess. The most inspiring part of it all could in fact be the democratic nature of the sport. You do not even need a pair of shoes to pick up the game, or even a ball. You never know; bare feet and a ripe grapefruit could get you to big places.

 — Samantha Scheetz

Sources: BBC, Bread for the World, Sportskeeda, AA Registry
Photo:Next Pulse Sports

street_soccer_world_cup_kids_plaing_red_orange_soccer_ball_vest_goal_fun_children_somebody_photo__opt
The second Street Child World Cup has officially kicked off as of March 28 where it first originated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

With the excitement surrounding the highly anticipated FIFA World Cup, the Street Child World Cup was set to precede FIFA.

The Street Child World Cup is an event made to focus on the plight of street children around the world while incorporating their love of soccer and arts to share their experiences with one another as well as bringing awareness to the public.

You may be asking yourself, what is a street child? The answer is as simple as the name sounds. A street child is a child forced to live a life on the streets doing whatever they can to survive with poverty more often than not being the heart of the problem.

Many street children are without homes or even families to go back to. Some have been torn away from their families during the outbreak of a war and others have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

There are also those children who are left to live a life on the streets as a means to provide for their family the best they can.

Warchild.org reports that the number of street children in the world is estimated to be over 100 million. To put this statistic in perspective, that is nearly one-third of the United States population.

The Street Child World Cup is more than just a soccer game where children around the world gather together. It is a global campaign to bring recognition to a marginalized youth and push for the protection of an easily overlooked group.

This 10-day event brings together teams of street children from up to 20 countries that will get the opportunity to interact with one another throughout the various workshops hosted.

In fact, rather than making the games the main focus, the campaign provides children with a creative outlet enabling them to express their plight through various workshops.

The workshops offer something for all of the participants ranging from technology based workshops, to the choir, photography, cooking, yoga, etc.

This campaign is being used to challenge the negative perceptions and treatment of street children around the world.

Street Child World Cup places the hardships that street children endure everyday at the forefront of the public consciousness by putting street children in the spotlight as media coverage and interest levels rise around the soccer games.

“Street Child World Cup is an initiative of UK registered charity Street Child United. The aim is to provide a platform for street children to be heard, to challenge negative stereotypes of street children and to promote the rights of street children.”

UNICEF reported that one billion children are deprived of at least one service essential to development and survival. Street children fall under this category all too well.

The Street Child World Cup gives the children a place to escape the dangers that have unfortunately become just another aspect of their lives.

 – Janelle Mills

Sources: Street Child World Cup (1), Street Child World Cup (2), War Child, The Borgen Project
Photo: WordPress

Match Against Poverty
The 11th annual United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  Match Against Poverty concluded on March 5 as soccer stars joined together to fight global poverty. With international income inequality at extremely high levels, the United Nations has enlisted the help of famous soccer players and the world’s most popular sport to garner increased attention to combating poverty.

UN Goodwill Ambassadors Zinédine Zidane and Ronaldo are some of the famous players playing in the charity match against local Swiss team Young Boys Bern in Bern, Switzerland. Other players included Czech Pavel Nedved and the Portuguese Luis Figo. The squad of retired players beat the Young Boys 8-6, with two goals scored by Zidane.

The charity match is expected to raise up to $250,000 through the sale of tickets and broadcasting rights for the game, and two-thirds of the funds taken in will go towards rebuilding the Philippines after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit in November 2013 and toward reducing poverty in Brazil.

Proceeds will be allocated towards the UN’s short-term work program, designed to provide enough money to cover basic necessities in the Philippines. The 2012 Match Against Poverty was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil and raised $360,000 to support UNDP projects in the country. The first Match Against Poverty, held in 2003, took place in Basel, Switzerland and raised approximately $1 million.

Soccer continues to be the most popular sport around the world, partly due to its incredible accessibility. Some kids from poor countries simply use paper and string to make a soccer ball while others use balled-up grocery bags. Soccer is capable of joining people together and making people excited about a topic that seems foreign to people living in developed countries. Increased partnerships between the public and private sectors, along with increased partnerships between the public and private sectors with civil society will continue to be the key in reducing global poverty.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: Independent, Daily Mail
Photo: MSN Sports