BRAZIL: Students Participating in Salesian-run Sports for Peace Program Awarded Trip to Madrid, Spain
(MissionNewswire) The Sports for Peace program at a Salesian Youth Center in Niterói, a city that is a short ferry ride across Guanabara Bay from downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, sent 10 students to Madrid, Spain to meet with the Real Madrid youth soccer team and compete in soccer games with boys from Chile and Columbia. The trip was awarded to the Salesian students after they won “Copa Ampla”, a regional soccer tournament for boys. Prior to the trip to Madrid, most of the boys had never ventured outside their city.
The Sports for Peace program, the third of its kind in Brazil, is made possible through a collaboration between the Salesian Missions office in Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation and benefits close to 200 youth from the most disadvantaged areas around Rio de Janeiro. Many of the boys participating in the program live in the slums and once had very little hope for the future.
The program’s motto is, “They play, we educate” and participants receive nutritional, family and psychological support, regular health checkups and the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops, gymnastics, crafts, reading and citizenship activities. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse are also provided. Outside of normal school hours, participants in the program receive sports training by coaches qualified by the Real Madrid Foundation.
“Sports programs teach youth both on and off the field,” says Father Mark Hyde, the executive director of Salesians Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
The trip to Spain included many cultural and recreational activities including a trip to the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid to watch a live soccer match between Real Madrid and Levante. For 13 year old Guilherme Ferreira who lives in Niterói’s Santa Rosa slum with his parents and two small brothers, the trip was an opportunity to see one of his favorite players and show his younger brothers that hard work and education can lead to many rewards.
“This is one of the biggest dreams of my life. I’m going crazy at the idea of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo playing. I identify a lot with him, in his determination and hard work to achieve all that he sets out to do,” said Ferreira. “I have to be an example for my brothers and I am filled with pride at being chosen by the Salesian Youth Center to join the team because of my behavior and my efforts.”
According to Elaine Holanda, a psychologist and director of the Salesian Youth Center in Niterói who was a chaperone on the trip, many of the boys were filled with emotion when they entered the stadium. Having only watched soccer matches on television, they never dreamed they would have the opportunity to experience a live game on the field.
“These boys are very talented, but also very unlucky,” said Holanda. “We try to give them, through education, the opportunity to realize their dreams.”
The collaboration between Salesian programs and the Real Madrid Foundation has been very successful, granting more than 2,000 youth and vulnerable children the opportunity to participate in similar programs around the globe. This socio-sports program in Brazil is operating alongside 13 other socio-sporting schools in nine countries including Togo, Benin, Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Portugal, Senegal and the Dominican Republic.
Brazil has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and is an important agricultural and industrial power in the region. Just over 15 percent of Brazilians live in poverty, with the majority living in the rural northeast of the country, according to the World Bank. While Brazil is making positive changes, there are still large gaps between the poor and the rich and issues of income inequality and social exclusion remain at the root of those in poverty.
Inequalities also exist in access to education and educational efficiency. These inequalities are greatest for children and youth who are poor, live in rural areas or who have an incomplete compulsory education. Salesians working with poor youth and their families in Brazil develop programs and provide youth opportunities for furthering their education and skills.
UNICEF – Brazil Statistics