The “Land of Eternal Springtime” Guatemala has approximately 14,500 street children out of a population of just about 15 Million. Many of them, due to a soaring level of poverty and lack of social support program’s end up working as a child labor; purely as a means of survival for a family. Hence, these children tend to be susceptible to violence, human trafficking and sexual abuse. Moving towards their accessibility to physical activities, with football being the primary sport of interest in the country, what would be the chances that you would see them play in a decent or designated area to play?
Thanks to the effort of love.fútbol, these kids have a designated location to play now within their own communities.
A few years ago, while Drew Chafetz (Co-Founder and CEO of love.fútbol) was traveling with his family in Morocco, happened to come across a pickup game among kids no older than 10, in a narrow alley-way at Cascades D’Ouzoud, hours away from Marrakech. But what struck Drew was a canal about a foot wide and deep with hard cement corners, that adorned the playing field. And the kids played effortlessly. Full of appreciation to the kids relenting attitude towards the game, despite of their surroundings, Drew realized that it was simply not safe.
In order to create a platform for this kids to play this sport in a safe development, Drew along a friend – Alfredo, masterminded the creation of love.fútbol working with communities to ensure that children have the opportunity to stay on the field and off the streets and that:
“Every child may fulfill their passion for soccer.”
With 14 projects already completed in Guatemala and Brazil, love.fútbol has managed to bring a unique dimension to the term community involvement. love.fútbol specializes in bringing members of a community together in order to successfully complete a project. Many of the communities had never partnered and/or benefited from international organizations and had no perspective of a significant positive change; neither did they ever see themselves as being agents of positive impact. The group basically places the decision making process into the hands of the community to create ownership, and ultimately increase community independence and strength.
As Breno Lacet, a development co-coordinator at the firm’s Brazilian headquarters, explains,
“The community is a social arena. It’s not just the field; it’s not just the physical legacy. It’s about creating energy. We provide the materials and direction but the real work is from the community. The key community leaders end up planning the entire construction and hence, oversee the project. “
Few of the greatest achievements of the group’s first project in Brazil in Varzea Fria locality (in the state of Pernambuco), as recalled by Breno, was the community’s ability to work towards raising the profile of the environment surrounding them and directly affect other non-profit community programs related to football in the area.
“We basically intend to create a social platform. Access to the field in Varzea Fria was not organized. It is important to say that the change was conquering for the community. The area was full of mud hence the community went to the municipality and requested that the area be paved so that it’s safe for the kids to reach the grounds. The difference is that the project created the union and autonomy necessary to make the pavement and other social developments a reality. In fact, the consequence being the following:
- The community see themselves as an agent of change
- We created a platform for other social organizations, especially those supporting social development through soccer, to partner with and develop new projects. The Grassroot Soccer situation in Rio is such an example of this kind of development. From a technical perspective, we are a “hardware” provider to a largely “software” focused sector. Our projects promote safe spaces for the expansion of these organization’s programs.”
With Coca Cola being a top partner of the program in Brazil along with support from the likes of FIFA and street football world, love.fútbol is definitely heading in the right direction.
The more I watch the videos (though it’s in Portuguese), the more I am reminded of my footballing past. With the four goal posts being parking barriers, playing barefoot on the streets in the dark with minimal knowledge of when a car might pull off from behind the transformer. Or on other occasions, playing on an uneven pit of sand, not knowing who would be that one person to kick a standalone rock or step on that hidden nail makes the need of love.fútbol or something similar in our localities all that important.
Especially, when I visit the area and see the next generations of young footballers do what they do best in that environment.
As we are in the month of giving and holiday cheers, Love.fútbol is looking for your help in any way possible. Be it financial, or as simple as just spreading the word. The hardworking people out there would definitely appreciate it. Click here to make that financial contribution today.