ECUADOR: Soccer schools benefit Achuar youth
First of its kind school has grown to 7 schools
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries started the Yankuam Jintia Soccer School in February 2020 in the Wichimi community in Ecuador. This was the first school of its kind for the Achuar community, an Indigenous population in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The school was developed by Father Agustín Togo, a member of the Wasakentsa community, who saw an opportunity to use soccer to educate and teach about Catholic values.
Four years later, the school has had a positive impact on the community. The school has provided an opportunity for youth to connect with their peers, learn important life lessons and do something productive with their free time. The one school has now grown to seven. Soccer schools are available in Wichimi, Patukme, Wasakentsa, Sapapentsa, Karakam, Wampuik and Wachirpas. The number of participants has also grown from 80 to more than 700 youth.
The soccer schools encourage participation and growth in sports skills. Fr. Togo explained, “Through soccer, which is so important in the life of the Achuar population, children learn values such as respect, discipline, responsibility and teamwork. But it is also a way for young people to meet God.” Fr. Togo organizes opportunities for prayer, confessions and celebrations when he has the chance to be with youth in the schools.
To strengthen the bonds between Achuar communities, soccer leagues have recently been organized in the under–12 category. The operation of the schools is made possible thanks to the collaboration of people from the community who volunteer to conduct the training sessions. They are also responsible for the care of the equipment provided by Salesians in Ecuador and around the globe, including Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Thanks to support, volunteers also have mobile phones or tablets to keep in regular contact with Fr. Togo to plan and evaluate activities. Technology helps the volunteers gain up-to-date knowledge on sports training methods.
Fr. Togo has plans for the schools, including obtaining technical training in soccer for the volunteers through an agreement with the Salesian Polytechnic University. Volunteers will be able to access the pedagogy of physical activity and sport courses. Fr. Togo also aims to establish links with soccer teams or schools in other provinces of the country, so that youth can test their skills.
He explained, “They dream of becoming great players and some dream of playing on the national team. There is talent, skill and technique among the young players. My dream would be to be able to have a national team of the Achuar people and participate in championships in other cities around the country.”
Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20% of the population receives almost 50% of the national income, while the poorest 20% receives only 5%. According to the World Food Program, almost 26% of all children under age 5 have stunted growth, increasing to 31% in rural areas and 47% in Indigenous communities.
Salesians provide social development and educational programs across Ecuador to help poor youth gain an education and the skills for later employment. The skills they learn ensure they are able to care for themselves and their families while being contributing members of their communities.
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Salesian Missions – Ecuador
UNICEF – Ecuador