Nadia Moreno, Partners of the Americas’ A Ganar Technical Director, sat in the crowd of the Beyond Sport Awards in London. The international awards ceremony, sponsored by Barclays, TIME, and UNICEF, “promotes, supports, and renews the best projects across the globe that are using sport for positive social change.” Moreno sat waiting as category after category was called. Sport for Education went to Figure Skating in Harlem; Sport for Conflict Resolution went to Fight for Peace; Sport for the Environment went to Green Sports Alliance. The list of prestigious awards and winners went on.
Then it was time for the Barclay Sport for Employability Award. Four organizations were shortlisted for the new category. HITZ – Premiere Rugby, Ocean Academy – Sport Tourism with Purpose, Street League, and A Ganar. All have done impressive work over the last year, all were deserving of the award.
“And the winner is, A Ganar!” The announcement filled the room. Moreno was surprised and honored as she rose from her table and took the stage, accepting the award on behalf of her team in Washington, D.C. This was A Ganar’s third year being nominated for a Beyond Sport Award, and the program’s first win.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, A Ganar has been changing the lives of at-risk youth through sport in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past ten years. The program has served over 14,000 youth in 19 countries, with implementation in Barbados, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago in this year alone.
A Ganar empowers youth with teamwork, leadership, and market-driven skills through sport-based activities. The program lasts for seven to nine months, and when a person graduates he or she is equipped with the necessary skills to either return to the classroom or launch a career.
Julio was working at a balcony and door fabrication plant when he learned about A Ganar from a flyer in his town in Guatemala. He decided to enroll, never imagining he would meet life-long friends or that it is possible to learn the skills and values he needs to succeed through sport. Through the program, Julio learned confidence and perseverance.
After discovering that he wanted to do technical training as a cook or kitchen staff, A Ganar matched Julio with an internship at the Quetzaltenango Country Club, where he was hired after his graduation from A Ganar this past summer. “If it weren’t for A Ganar, I would be at a job just to make money. I wouldn’t be doing something that actually motivates me,” Julio said. “A Ganar is an opportunity to develop yourself for success.”
In addition to job skills, A Ganar includes service learning and mentorship, two activities that have encouraged the success of program graduates.
“Mentorship works and I am living proof of it,” Shaelle from St. Vincent and the Grenadines commented after graduating from A Ganar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Shaelle Williams and her A Ganar mentor, Ms. David, built a relationship lasting much longer than the program. The two have become family, in a way. “She was a guide, and still is a guide in terms of my life as a teenager,” Williams said. “She shared valuable experiences with me and advised me about the workforce, my goals, and how to achieve them. She assured me that she would always be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. Ms. David was not only my mentor, but my mother and a friend.”
Williams is now employed at Saunders & Huggins Chambers law firm. ”I want to take this opportunity to thank Ms. David, Partners of the Americas, USAID and the A Ganar Program for making me the person I am today; independent, proud, self-motivated, disciplined, and respectful,” she said.
Partners and A Ganar are thrilled to be recognized on an international level for the work the program does with these youth, and many others, throughout the Americas.
“The Awards ceremony was very magical,” Moreno commented after the event. “There was a very unique spirit of collaboration, not competition, in the room. It was really impressive to see how much the sport-for-development field is growing, from programs using surfing in South Africa to BMX bikes in the U.K.”
Now, A Ganar looks to the future. The program has large-scale plans for the coming year – stay tuned.