Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Drew and Alex, two young men from the US, who stayed with us at the hotel after traveling all over the most isolated outposts of rural Guatemala in search of communities to help via the Gospel of Soccer--or, as it is known in Spanish, fútbol.
As Alex explained to me, in these communities, the lives of children are often meager and extremely circumscribed by poverty, a narrow outlook for their future and other issues. One of their few opportunities for freedom of action is when they get to play fútbol.
As you can see in the photo directly above, land is at a premium and must be used for subsistence farming. Hence, the children in these communities often have to walk through really difficult and remote paths just to get to a space where they can actually play.
The informal playgrounds available to children are truly underserved.
Photo immediately above shows one of the "sports fields" where these kids play, which as can be seen, is not only far away from their village, but hardly an ideal and dignified space for a good game. Moreover, because these are very socially conservative communities, girls are expected to cleave close to home and don't get to participate in the soccer games.
Things change, however, if there is a good space cleared and leveled close to home (see above).
And that is what LoveFútbol does in Guatemala via young activists like Drew and Alex. They partner with the target communities, mediate so that raw materials are donated and they provide expert guidance on how to build multipurpose sports fields in the communities. Then they follow up in time to see how the fields are being integrated into the fabric of the community.
The results are amazing!
I really love that picture above of the little goalie, encumbered by her wrapped around "corte" (traditional Mayan dress) yet so ready to stop that ball I can just feel the intensity of her coiled-up energy! I am sure she was actually gritting her teeth.
Notice, as well, the boys standing at attention on the sidelines, watching. It is just great to see how naturally children just step over "prescribed" gender boundaries and start creating change.
Photo above is of a cleared field with backdrop of beautiful mountains. The beauty of the Guatemalan highlands is really breathtaking. I plan to visit soon myself.
One of the best assets of Love.Fútbol is that rather than being an organization that builds the field for the community, it helps the whole community build its own field, thus generating a sense of ownership and participation. Mayan communities are well-known, actually, for their ages-old community-oriented outlook, so that working together comes naturally there.
Usually once a field is built, it becomes a core space within the village for the community to get together.
Above you can appreciate one of the lovely multipurpose fields already finished. Right by the schoolhouse, it provides a space for physical education and other activities central to the community. Alex tells me that what they see happen often, is that the children--especially girls--start asking for basketball hoops. Thus, when they return a year or so later, the community has raised basketball hoops as well.
Above, I suppose, a Mayan girl team soccer team!
What bowls me over is the power of sports and community-building to bring hope to impoverished communities, and the almost immediate way in which small yet momentous changes can be seen to take place.
I am SO inspired by Drew and Alex's work! If you are too, check out their website (www.lovefutbol.org) and perhaps you'll be inspired to help out or participate in some way. Perhaps even visit the same beautiful regions and communities these guys have visited, which are not exactly in the traditional tourist paths, but seems to me have much to offer.
This is truly one of the best things of being here and having an inn: All the wonderful people one meets. (Photos courtesy of Alex Bearman)
Bed and Breakfast - Lofts - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala
In the Historic Center of Guatemala