Ground-breaking workshop brings together female coaches from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Colombia to learn how soccer can keep children safe
Last week, 35 female soccer coaches learned how to keep boys and girls safe from weapons of war using the power of sport. The coaches are part of a training workshop led by Spirit of Soccer, the award-winning non-profit organization that uses soccer – the world’s favorite sport - to bring vital education messages to children living in conflict zones. The workshop took place in Vientiane, Laos and is supported by the US Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.
According to the United Nations, 11 children are killed every day by landmines and unexploded bombs from past and current wars. Founded in Bosnia in 1996, Spirit of Soccer uses a unique curriculum that incorporates soccer games and drills with education on how to recognize and avoid landmines, unexploded bombs and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
"This workshop has been good for me. I learnt new skills, like understanding how to work with landmine victims and met people from many countries. This will help me with my work with Spirit of Soccer because I now have new skills to teach my children” said Kunthea, 23, who is employed by Spirit of Soccer as a full-time coach in Cambodia.
This was the third edition of the workshop, which places a special emphasis on empowering female coaches so they can reach more girls and young women with the Spirit of Soccer message. This year, the workshop was expanded to include female coaches from Iraq and Colombia and on the final day of the training the new coaches organizing a Mine Risk Education Festival for 200 young girls from nearby, mine-polluted communities.
"This workshop has given me more experience in coaching and Mine Risk Education. I’ve learned from people how they tackle the same issue in Vietnam and Laos. It feels like one big family here” said Payman, a 43-year-old coach from Spirit of Soccer’s program in Kirkuk, Iraq where she teaches children displaced by ISIL about the dangers they will face when they finally return home.
“It’s important to place a special focus on female coaches” said Spirit of Soccer Founder and CEO Scott Lee. “We know that many times it's the women in a household who have the most influence on the behavior of their kids. By empowering women like this we want to make sure that as many children as possible hear the message that could be the difference between life and death.”