Preventing Exploitation Through Soccer?!
In India we are working to prevent trafficking and exploitation to some of the most vulnerable.
How do we do it? Through soccer believe it or not!
The connection may not seem too obvious, but let us break it down for you…
Our Prevention Program is aimed at shaping young boys who are from vulnerable backgrounds with a vision to help them find hope, meaning and freedom for their lives. The vision is to empower them to create a better alternative for their future - avoiding the pitfalls of dropping out of school, getting involved in substance abuse, gangs, and worse.
We offer them something they love - soccer - and couple that with life skills classes, academic support, mentoring and more, shaping their lives into a more holistic approach.
Read on to find out what’s been going on lately in our Prevention Program and the impact that it is making in hundreds of young lives every day…
We have over 730 kids in 10 communities enrolled in our program, with many of them attending daily training programs plus regular life skills classes and holiday camps. This number has more than doubled in the last 2 years.
Each child in our program receives a sports uniform, including shoes. This is exciting for them, as many would be used to not wearing shoes and only having 1 set of clothes. This also as an incentive to stay involved in the program.
This is not just some casual hang out, this is a formal and rigorous training program with professional coaches and high-levels of expectation. Some of the students go on to be selected to play at state-level and participate in local competition games.
FREEDOM STORY: Dom, one of our volunteer sports coaches has transitioned from a life of addiction, to one of football coach. He enjoys coming on our holiday camps and helping young boys experience life-changing community and support the way that he has.
Every season brings with is new adventures, new opportunities and new victories! Including being selected to play in local leagues, taking referee training and exams, and practising along side some local school teams.
MORE THAN SOCCER SKILLS
Although the main logistical focus of the program is indeed the soccer training which takes place every morning before school, the heart behind the program is so much broader than that.
Through weekly life skills classes reaching about 100 boys, we see a lot of transformation take place in the boys hearts and lives. Recently, the topics for these classes has included drug abuse, decision making and leadership. We help the boys understand the risks and consequences of their actions, where to go for help, and how they can be demonstrating good behaviour to peers and the younger boys.
Boys in our sports program must stay in school, and we want to help them do that. We provide tuition help after school, attended on average by about 135 boys. This provides them with a safe, quiet place to study, free from distraction.
SKILLS TRAINING & JOB PLACEMENTS
Once the boys decide to finish their education and sports training, we are also helping boys find suitable employment. Sometimes this involves assisting them with applications, preparing for interviews, and matching them with trusted employers. Recently we had 7 boys successfully find jobs.
For others, their stories are not so successful and unfortunately they can slip back into old bad habits. One young boy dropped out of our program after getting involved with a dangerous group of friends. Not long after, he found himself in jail with a criminal conviction. Committed to the wellbeing of every boy, his old coaches seek to visit him regularly in jail to encourage, support and counsel him.
Recently in the nearby city of Kerala, there have been devastating floods affecting thousands of people. We asked the boys in the sports program to donate some stationary and we were able to deliver boxes of supplies to affected schools in the area. We were so encouraged to learn about the boys enthusiasm to give back to those less fortunate in a time of crisis! These boys, though owning such little themselves, have been overwhelmed by others’ generosity and want to pay that forward to those in need.
REACHING THE WHOLE COMMUNITY
Our team is passionate about helping everyone, not just the boys. Our team aims to visit each boy’s family once a month to check in on them and see if they need help. This helps us understand the boy’s relationship with their family and identify issues that may need to be addressed.
Additionally in these same communities, we recently partnered with a local healthcare provider to deliver free health care. Even basic health check-ups and advice can be enough to make a big difference in identifying health problems and giving people access to help. We also assist families with official paperwork for getting identification papers, such as birth certificates. Many families living in slum areas do not have this kind of information and it makes it very difficult to get jobs or drivers licences, vote, or to enrol in school or other programs.
WHAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE?
You! Keeping up the demands of this large program is only possible through the generosity of supporters like you! It costs roughly $20 per month per child to keep this program running. We would love your help to enable the continuation of this life-changing program.