When she became a mother at age 18, Claudia Delgado had to abandon school to care for her baby in Quito, Ecuador. But eight years later, soccer changed her life.
Delgado, then 26, joined a pilot youth training program, supported by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), which uses soccer to teach young adults skills that are highly valued in the job market: teamwork, self-confidence, and respect to others.
“I used to feel I was useless,’’ said Delgado, who participated in the pilot training program in 2007 and now volunteers in a youth development project. “After I joined the program, I realized I could do things that actually can be useful to people.’’
Pilot projects in Ecuador, Brazil and Uruguay have been so successful that now youths in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and several other cities in five Latin America and the Caribbean countries will replicate this training program.
MIF’s Donors Committee approved on March 10 a $3.6 million technical assistance program to support similar training and employment programs in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti. Moreover, the funds will expand the existing programs in Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador. About 5,400 low-income or at-risk youth aged 16 to 24 are expected to benefit during this new phase of the project.
Under the program, MIF and the executing agency, Partners of the Americas (POA), work closely with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and, in several cases, local governments, to design and provide the soccer-based and inspired training that will meet demand from local employers. POA, working through a network of affiliate organizations, will be the executing agency for all the countries except Argentina. Virreyes Rugby Club will execute the project in that country.
The project has three training phases. The first phase uses soccer to teach participants important skills and values. Communication, cooperation and teamwork are learned through exercises in the field such as having the players work in pairs by holding hands as they play soccer.
In the second phase, technical courses are offered to participants in areas such as mechanics, sewing, hotel and restaurant services, refereeing and telemarketing . The courses are selected based on market demand and the economic realityof each country. In the third phase of the project, the participants have the opportunity to participate in internships through contracts with universities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
In Ciudad Juárez, the program is expected to help participating young people to stay away from organized crime and, more importantly, to develop their full potential as community leaders, said Salvador de Anda, who works for the government of Ciudad Juárez and will help coordinate the training program.
“The Mexican people are very creative and this program will allow our young people to bring change to their communities,’’ de Anda said. “We want the participants to inspire others.”
The city’s three largest universities will help design and provide the training program, de Anda said. Courses will be offered to meet the needs of the manufacturing and service industries in Ciudad Juárez. About 900 young people in Ciudad Juárez are expected to take part in the project over a 30-month period.
MIF is an autonomous fund administered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that promotes private sector development and poverty reduction, with an emphasis on micro-enterprises and small businesess. Government and private sector partners in this youth training project are expected to provide $4.4 million in counterpart funds.
- Romina Tan Nicaretta