SALT Academy has four main programs, each targeting a different demographic so as to impart best suited skills to groups of children with varying ages and goals. Taken together, these programs are intended to create a development strategy with the potential to spur the growth of young leaders who can bring new skills back to their community and thus have a long-lasting impact.
You can find more information on each of the programs on their respective pages:
Whether it be the ever-increasing participation in our Youth League, the growing number of girls attending our Summer School, or our expanding engagement with international exchanges and trainings, SALT’s capacity to impact change at the grassroots level keeps improving. As such, here are a few examples of SALT’s achievements over the years:
- Totalling the approximate populations of the three provinces we work in, Battambang, Poipet and Pailin, the number of participants in our Youth League is roughly equivalent to a thousandth of the total of people who live in these provinces.
- This year will be the second time that our Summer School includes a weekend-long workshop on self-defence, providing girls with conflict resolution techniques to avoid threatening situations.
The road hasn’t always been easy. Given that we target underlying social structures which shape the Cambodian society daily, we are often confronted to severe resistance. This is particularly so when we approach issues related to women’s rights. In this sense, football has been a great way for us to promote an inclusive environment where the issue of gender and ascribed roles can be addressed in a consistent and open manner. As such, SALT believes that football can create a space where traditional gender roles can be revisited and reconciled in respectful and tolerant manner.
There have however been setbacks because it is sometimes impossible to successfully break the beneficiaries of our programs out of their own negative cycles. For instance, the Street Kids program is often hard-pressed to retain the children: they may come a couple of times but rarely commit on a regular basis. In the case of the Mighty Girls, there have been a few cases when, even with the financial and educational resources we provide them with, girls were nonetheless trafficked to Thailand or sold into child marriage. However, rather than writing these cases off as failures, we take them as reminders that our work is very much needed in Cambodia today.
SALT Academy was founded in 2006, and today reaches over 5’000 youths and 1’000 young adults across the three Northwestern provinces of Cambodia: Battambang, Poipet, and Pailin. We thrive to empower young male and female leaders through sustainable community-based football programs which combine sports coaching with LifeSkills workshops, vocational training, and community engagement. We have chosen to work with football because it provides a forum where children’s rights to play can be reconciled with the need for gradual, grassroots change in local Cambodian society.
The idea for SALT Academy resulted from an isolated incident and deep reflection. When in Cambodia, Sam Schweingruber – the founder of SALT – had his helmet stolen as he was chatting with a friend on the side of the road. Upon confronting the thief, Sam realized that the young man was under the influence of drugs. This stayed in the back of his mind as he returned to his native Switzerland and considered what might be done to help Cambodian youth development today.
Eventually, he decided to take matters into his own hands and do some of the work himself at a grassroots level. The Sports and Leadership Training (SALT) Academy was hence created to reconcile his desire to engage with the Cambodian community and his background in football.
Cambodia has suffered much over the last few decades, and it still suffers the repercussions from the past today. A significant majority of the population is under 21, shifting financial responsibilities onto children and young adults. This is an especially prominent problem in Battambang, where the average wage is less than .50 US cents a day, much below the internationally recognized absolute poverty line of 1.25 USD. As a result, young people rarely complete education, instead needing to become wage workers or to marry early. In this light, girls are particularly at risk of negative social patterns, such as human trafficking and domestic abuse.
It is with this in mind that The SALT Academy was created – to use football as a tool to impact change in the community. As Nelson Mandela once said, “sport has the power to change the world”: it does not only speak to youth in a language that they understand, it can also create empowerment opportunities by broadening horizons. As such, SALT Academy believes that the young leaders we help empower are the future of Cambodia, and that the tools we give them have the power to make development more sustainable.