Programs Help World Cup Spirit Last Year-Round
By Erica Burman on Monday, June 14th, 2010
For decades, people have viewed the World Cup as a means to jointly celebrate the game of soccer and the international community. However, organizations such as Ball for All, Project Play Africa, Partners of the Americas, as well as many others, combine sports and service in Africa through their partnership with Peace Corps Volunteers yearlong.
RPCVs Brad and Jenny Kremer formed Ball for All (www.ballforall.org) in 2004 following their own positive experiences playing soccer with children while serving as Volunteers. While in Senegal in 2005, Brad met Peace Corps Volunteer Jeffrey Chatellier, who had started a girls’ soccer team after “seeing that all the girls in the village had to do chores while their brothers got to have all the fun and play soccer,” according to the Ball for All website. Chatellier soon teamed up with the Kremers and eventually took over the management of the non-profit.
Ball for All’s goal is provide girls in Africa and opportunity to play organized sports as a way of creating the continent’s next generation of strong female leaders. The organization provides micro grants to Peace Corps volunteers to start girls’ sports teams in collaboration with local schools. In the Toubacouta region of Senegal, a single girls’ team started by a Peace Corps Volunteer has multiplied into a league of over 20 teams. Currently, Ball for All is planning to replicate this success by funding four girls’ soccer teams in the Kedougou region of Senegal.
Peace Corps members working with other organizations have also recognized the importance of incorporating sports into children’s lives. Last weekend, Volunteers Joanna Balza and Haley McDonough were part of a Sunday trip during which 50 South African students attended a U.S. men’s national soccer team practice in Pretoria West.
“It was really exciting for [the students] to meet the players; but for most of these kids, just getting to go on a bus to Pretoria and be given lunch is a huge deal,” Balza says in a Peace Corps press release.
Ball for All sponsors several Peace Corps Volunteers, including Lindsay Cotten, who is stationed in Senegal. Using a small micro grant from Ball for All, Cotten started a girls’ team in her village of Salemata.
Cotten was pleased to note how much the girls’ confidence improved through her coaching and teambuilding. “They no longer sit back in silence when the boys or older villagers tell them girls cannot play soccer,” she writes in a letter posted on the Ball for All website. “They stand up for themselves and are proud to be playing on a girls’ soccer team.”
Cotten goes on to write that Ball for All has been one of her most enjoyable experiences in Senegal. “One year into my service, my favorite project has been my soccer teams. I look forward to what the next year will bring and creating more teams in surrounding villages.”