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Champions in Action February & March Update

Back in November 2018, we held a talent showcase event called Gigs for Guatemala. This event raised funds for Champions in Action, an after school youth soccer program for girls living in the red zones of Guatemala.

Here is an update from Emily Myers Gómez, one of Champion's program mentors and global director.

"February and March have been busy months for the mentors and girls. As I mentioned in our last update, we had two public health analysts join us for a week at the end of February. During our mentor school, they spoke on nutrition, healthy habits, with an emphasis on hand washing, and started the conversation with the mentors on how and where to find nutrition resources to help the families. They also prepared several handouts with additional information and sources of complete protein that can be easily found with a limited budget. Also, at league, they walked each team through a proper hand-washing session. And, we are now beginning to implement better health practices in our daily programming - like bettering the snacks provided, requiring hand washing before snacks, etc.

Team 7 - Croatia

Layla (the mentor) noted that the girls have made strides in self-control, their behavior and have learned humility. The girls on the team only eat about 1-2 times a day. Layla was very active at our mentor school session on nutrition. We're looking forward to seeing how the topics discussed help her to address the needs of her girls. An exciting thing for them is that they just got a water treatment pump at the school her family runs. They will be selling clean water to anyone in the community at an extremely low rate. Her ministry also has wonderful health programs that are free for the community - like lessons on childcare for young mothers, dentists, a pharmacy, sex education, access to general well-checks, etc. They really are doing a ton for the community surrounding the garbage dump.

As a follow-up from last month, Alma and Ashly are still continuing on with the team. Their family has been building a new home and they needed to help out last month. The girls had four weeks of practices in February. Barbara, Karla and Stefany had perfect attendance. Jennifer and Astrid missed one practice. Ana Gabriela and Alicia missed two practices. Alma and Ashly missed three of the four practices, most likely due to the house again. Behavior is, for the most part, consistently 8s and 9s. Jennifer had a 7 the second week of practice and Alicia, oddly, dropped to a 5 the final week. Aside from these two outliers, behavior has improved across the board since the beginning of the mentorship cycle in August.

At the league the girls are crushing it. They are in 1st place with 25 points. The 2nd place team is at a distant 18 points. On the February 23rd league, the girls played against Uruguay and won 3-0. At our most recent league on March 9th, they played Spain and won 1-0. This weekend they will be back in action and play against Brazil.

Team 9 - Portugal

The mentors of these girls expressed that, because of the dangers of the community, it's hard to get the parent's permission for the girls to go to practice and league. Also, they live much further away than a lot of the other teams and provide a bus for the girls to come and go from league, which does come at a cost. We are exploring ways on how to better support the mentors in this area - in addition to the funds we provide all the mentors each month. They also expressed concern for two girls who are continuing with friends that are bad influences.

In February, attendance was a bit lower than ideal. Fortunately, the mentors are working to re-integrate Cristel back into the team (see had dropped off at the end of last year) and she was present for 2 of the 4 practices. Astrid is another one who is being re-integrated back to the team. Her mother revoked permission after Arlin moved away. But, the mentors have been able to work with the mom to build trust and Astrid was present for two of the four practices in February. Katerine was also present for two of the four practices. Claudia only missed one practice. Sandra, Paulina and Paola all had perfect attendance. Mariela and Dulce were absent all month and I will be following up with the mentors to get some background on what is going on with them. Behavior is consistently 9s for all the girls this month. This is a big change for the girls, who were mostly getting 7s back in August.

Despite the strides being made in behavior, the girls still have room to improve on the soccer field. At the 2/23 league, the girls played against Argentina and lost 2-0. At this past league on March 9th, the girls played against Guatemala and lost 6-2. Unfortunately, they are in last place with 3 points. This weekend they'll have a chance to gain some points when they play Belgium."