It’s not every day you receive an opportunity to speak at the United Nations, but last month, we were two of the lucky few. On Wednesday, April 15, we were invited to represent A Ganar at the United Nations’ “United Action towards Sustainable Development for All Through Sport” celebration in New York.
In front of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and several diplomats and world class athletes, we shared our life-changing experiences through A Ganar and hopes for the future of sport-for-development.
The invitation to present came after we were selected to attend the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace Youth Leadership Camp in Florida in 2014. For two weeks, we, along with 30 other youth from Latin America and the Caribbean, learned about sport-for-development and the many ways to use sport to reduce violence, promote healthy lifestyles, increase gender equity, include persons with disabilities and improve leadership potential.
After the camp, we received an invitation to speak at the UN, where we, along with U.S. Paralympian Gold Medalist Brody Roydel presented United Nations Special Advisor for Sport and Development Wilfried Lemke with a youth proclamation developed at the camp.
Two days later, Partners of the Americas hosted a “Conversation with A Ganar Youth,” where we were able to share our stories and our experience at the UN with attendees from the U.S. Agencyfor International Development, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, U.S. Department of Labor, the Embassies of Honduras, Paraguay, Barbados and many more.
You can read more about each of us below:
Colonia Kennedy in Honduras, where I’m from, is a very tough place. There’s a lot of drugs. Gangs are constantly fighting for territory. In the middle of the night, you can hear shots. Every day on TV you see news about death – how many people died. When you go to school, to your job, you have fear – you don’t know if you’re going to come back alive.
But A Ganar is changing this. Using only a simple ball, A Ganar teaches you important skills like teamwork and discipline. This is the magic of A Ganar.
Being in the U.S. - and more importantly – appearing at both the United Nations and the "Conversation with A Ganar Youth" was an incredible experience for me because I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with amazing people. I was reminded that all that I´m doing - all the hard work at home - is working like I wished, not only for me, but for the youth in my country. I have spent amazing time with amazing people, and now more than ever I know that I'm not alone in this - that other people in different places have my back, and that I have their back. Thanks to my increased commitment to A Ganar, I will never forget where I started or where I want to be.
A Ganar was an opportunity for me to give back and tell youth – I have been through everything you’ve been through and I made it. It’s great to share and be a part of the growth of youth, like myself, who struggle with the academic side of school. For me, A Ganar allowed me to find my niche – allowed me to find what I was good at. When I was at school, I knew what I wanted to do but I had never mastered anything. A Ganar really allowed my leadership abilities to come out.
The beauty of A Ganar is that it seeks to build communities and individuals from the ground up. I’m hoping the A Ganar program can be fused permanently in our secondary schools, so that persons who are not that academic can grow and show their true potential.
Finally, in the words of Partners President and CEO Steve Vetter: “I came away from this meeting so inspired by these two outstanding youth leaders and even more hopeful about the future of our hemisphere because of them. Asha and Guido represent the best of the more than 14,000 youth who have participated in the A Ganar, youth employment through sport, program during the past ten years. Whether they come from a Caribbean island, a barrio in a violence-plagued Central American country, a favela of Rio de Janeiro, or hundreds of other communities in our hemisphere, A Ganar youth are part of a new generation who will lead our hemisphere in the years to come. As Guido told us, “We are the first piece of a domino effect – you only need a little push to see majorchange.”
A Ganar combats the serious problem of youth unemployment by utilizing soccer and other team sports to help youth in Latin America, ages 16-24, find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills, or re-enter the formal education system. The program is funded by the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and many other donors.