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Sports to Share teaches teamwork, fair play, and tolerance

Youth sports program in Mexico fights obesity through fun and games.

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It’s very difficult to add things to teachers’ jobs because they already have so much to get through, but with this program they seem to fall in love with it on their own. Teachers have said that just our three-day training has changed their whole perspective on teaching – made it more human, more motivating. To date we have had more than 30,000 participants.

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How did you get connected and funded to work in schools?

We work with the Mexican Ministry of Social Development and the agencies that run indigenous shelters. When I graduated from university the minister of social development was making the ceremony, and I went directly to him and told him about the project idea. I’d been very active in organizing things in university, and it was good timing to connect with the ministry with that behind me.

What are the biggest challenges for the program?
There’s always the problem of human resources – we need talented and committed people but we can’t pay much just yet. I work really hard to maintain a lasting and skilled team. So many schools in the country want this program, and we don’t have enough resources to deliver it to all of them.

Funding can be a challenge, too. We are funded by various Mexican ministries, a little private support, and a few other partners. Lastly, the NGO community in Mexico can be touch-and-go. Everyone has good intentions but we need people with skills. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to feel part of a larger community of people doing similar work in the [United] States and internationally, most recently through Iniciativa Mexico.

How do you evaluate the results of the program?

We measure qualitative results in terms of how much students’ self-perception changes and to what extent they begin to see themselves as change-makers with social capital. We measure quantitative results in three areas – students’ understanding of the Millennium Goals, how much they’ve adopted healthy lifestyles, and how much local community development is being enhanced through the program.

Why do you think communities are so interested in adopting your program?
From the very beginning participating teachers told us in evaluations that they saw a huge change in children’s’ attitudes, and parents reported that students were more cooperative and helpful at home. We always receive amazingly positive evaluations and have more applications for the program than we can handle.

We’re looking to expand within the next five years to more area of Latin America and ideally to migrant communities in the US. Alliances through Ashoka, the UN Network, and the International Youth Foundation make this seem eventually possible!

This interview originally appeared on Dowser.org.

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