How UEFA Foundation is Fighting Child Poverty in HaitiThe 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.

Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

UEFA and UNHCR PartnershipThe Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the organization that governs football or soccer throughout the entirety of Europe. UEFA is made of multiple football associations spread across Europe and acts as a representative democracy for these associations. Among the many functions of the UEFA is the promotion of football as a tool to bring forth unity, protection of European football values and maintenance of excellent governance in European football. However, the UEFA has participated in other types of work beyond professional football. UEFA has also partnered with the United Nations High Council of Refugees (UNHCR). The UEFA and UNHCR partnership will benefit refugees forcibly displaced by war and conflict.

The UEFA Foundation for Children

Before the UEFA and UNHCR partnership began, UEFA had long worked to help child refugees with its Foundation for Children. The purpose of this organization is to improve the living conditions of child refugees. UEFA achieves this by supporting several socio-economic and sports projects. The UEFA Foundation for Children notes the negative impacts that war and conflict have on child refugees. It aims to play a part in addressing this.

By participating in sport, children learn essential life skills and values such as “respect, team spirit, diligence, courtesy and personal commitment.” These skills help prepare them for their futures, socially and professionally. Sports also allow a form of healing from the traumas that child refugees might have developed from the crises they live through. UEFA Foundation for Children has run several sports projects across the world. Among them is the Child Safeguarding Certification Programme for Sport-for-Good Practitioners in Europe. The purpose of the project is to train sports practitioners on the fundamental rights of children and how to go about protecting vulnerable populations such as child refugees.

The UEFA and UNHCR Partnership

On May 21, 2021, UEFA and the UNHCR brought their partnership to fruition by signing a “Cooperation Protocol to support refugee access to sport and enhance social inclusion.” The two organizations commit to long-term programs to support refugees and displaced individuals “by harnessing the transformative power of football to assist and uphold their rights and strengthen their integration in their host communities.”

To deliver on these commitments, UEFA member associations on the ground and UNHCR offices throughout Europe will provide support to one another. U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees Filippo Grandi commented on the partnership. He said that wherever his UNHCR travels take him in the world, he sees how football has the ability to unite people. Grandi states further, “Sport provides an opportunity for refugee children and youth to be included — it also has the transformative power to rebuild lives and inspire positive values.” Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA president, asserts that football fosters social inclusion and helps refugees better integrate into society.

The UEFA and UNHCR partnership has just started. As a result, the impact of the collaboration between the two is yet to be seen. However, both UEFA and the UNHCR devote a significant amount of effort to the well-being of refugees, which makes for a perfect team.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

sports in mexico
The nation of Mexico is well-known for its tacos and tequila, but less known for its staggering poverty rates and rising obesity cases. The Mexican State of Jalisco has a poverty rate of 41%; nearly half of the population lives without basic nutrition and suffers from the violence and theft of local drug cartels. Children raised in the vicious cycle of generational poverty suffer the most. Sports can provide a refuge for these children growing up surrounded by violence and hardship. Organized sports in Mexico provide children with the safety to build confidence and essential life skills that can help end cyclical poverty.

Sports Address Health Concerns

According to Mexico’s national social development board in May 2020, half of all Mexican children ages five through 14 hadn’t engaged in physical exercise for at least a year. The lack of physical activities and available sports contributes to Mexico’s climbing obesity rate, which neared 30% as of early 2020.

Malnutrition is typically equated with being underweight, but overweight children in poverty are also victims of malnutrition. In both instances, the child’s brain remains underdeveloped and cannot reach its full potential. Without proper nutrients, it is increasingly difficult for children to retain information and benefit from education.

The Social Significance of Sports

An aspect of poverty often overlooked is the lack of opportunity that children have to build and practice social skills. Sports in Mexico provide a safe space for children to play, socialize and build friendships without the threat of theft and violence that lurk on the streets.

Often played casually without referees, sports in Mexico frequently result in a conversation or reflection post-game. These discussions often revolve around gender equality, teamwork, perseverance, diversity or cooperation. Such discussions exemplify how the universal language of sports can help people find common ground and grow together.

Organizations Creating Space for Sports

Organized sports in Mexico offer a haven for children trying to avoid violence. Exercise and engagement in a stimulating social environment provide further benefits for their future. Thanks to the efforts of Children International, there are five community centers in the capital of Jalisco. These community centers provide protected spaces where children can read, use computers, play sports and learn about healthy eating habits.

At the beginning of 2020, the UEFA Foundation for Children collaborated with the Fundación del Empresariado Chihuahuense (FECHAC) to open and run 88 schools that offer an opportunity for children to get involved in sports. The organizations hope to increase that number of schools to more than 100 in the next two years.

The Sports for Sharing initiative, or Deportes para Compartir, aims to teach children healthy lifestyles while also introducing cultural diversity and social issues. The initiative has reached more than 63,000 young Mexicans across the country and aims to expand internationally. The program empowers girls who are playing sports for the first time and reduces street violence by providing sports outlets for young men.

The physical and social rewards that children gain from sports in Mexico cannot be overstated. In addition to health and social benefits, playing sports acts as an escape for children leading difficult lives in poverty. It allows children to feel normal, forget the harshness of their world and imagine a better life for themselves. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make increasing opportunities for children’s sports in Mexico a priority.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Pixabay

Kick for Trade, Teaching Life Skills with Football in Developing CountriesThe International Trade Center and UEFA Foundation for Children have partnered up to teach children entrepreneurial skills through football in developing countries. This initiative came about through a need for children in poverty to overcome external hiring factors, such as skills mismatch or a lack of financing. Worldwide, 59 million teens and children face unemployment and almost 136 million are employed yet still living in poverty. Football is an ideal conduit to address these issues because it is increasingly recognized as a sport for community development and addressing social issues. This program, Kick for Trade, uses the sport to teach life skills in developing countries, including Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Kick for Trade

The Kick for Trade curriculum was unveiled in August 2020 at UEFA headquarters to honor International Youth Day. The program had initial pilot projects in Gambia and Guinea in 2019, and after its success, Kick for Trade planned additional projects to take place in Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed Kick for Trade’s plans in these countries. However, countries can expect the program to take off as soon as it is safe to do so.

Once implemented, the program will feature trained life-skills coaches who will teach 11 sessions each on youth employability and entrepreneurship. The goal of the program is to teach skills like leadership and teamwork to children through football in developing countries. Specifically, the life skills of problem-solving, creative thinking, communication, interpersonal skills, empathy and resilience. The lessons require minimal equipment, making the program accessible for any child who would like to learn life skills in order to become more employable.

Kick for Trade’s Projects in Developing Countries

Kick for Trade is expected to teach 1,500 children employment skills throughout the selected countries. UEFA has helped 1 million children worldwide through its various programs since its creation five years ago. These programs span 100 countries, reaching all five continents. The specific Kick for Trade programs in developing countries will highlight different targets depending on the country.

  • Uganda. Kick for Trade chose Uganda for the gender equality project, which uses football in developing countries to reduce women’s poverty and improve education for girls. More than 75% of Uganda’s population is younger than the age of 30 and the youth unemployment rate is 13.3%. This program is an effort to close the gender gap to decrease unemployment levels for youth.
  • Angola. Angola was chosen for UEFA’s project on health improvement and crime prevention for at-risk children. Communicable diseases account for 50% of deaths in Angola. Teaching children proper health techniques is an effort to lower this statistic.
  • Cameroon. The UEFA saw that Cameroon could benefit from its ethnic integration project. This project focuses on using football in rural areas to promote peace. Since 2016, Cameroon has experienced protests and violence as a result of the division between the Anglophones and the Francophones. Encouraging peace between children will hopefully help to end this violence.
  • The DRC. The Democratic Republic of the Congo will be home to Kick for Trade’s project that aids children living on the streets. This project aims to intervene as early as possible to provide homeless children with the assistance they need. In the capital city of Kinshasa, almost 30,000 children younger than 18 are homeless. Law enforcement officials often recruit homeless children to disrupt political protests, increasing the susceptibility of children to injury or death. Adults and older children also often take advantage of these young homeless children. This program works to take vulnerable children off the streets and provide them with a safe place to live, improving their quality of life and future prospects.

These programs will roll out once it becomes safe enough to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, these programs will continue to positively benefit children looking for employment in developing countries.

– Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr