Today, we have four main programs which target different demographics in the hope of making a wide and long-lasting impact on the Cambodian society.
Our largest program, the Leagues regroups over six thousand adolescents throughout the three provinces we are active in. These young people participate in either or both of our annual football leagues: the Grass and Futsal seasons.
Mighty Girls and Mighty Girls Development
Geared specifically towards girls, this program aims to develop exceptional female football players both on and off the field. The focus is thus on football training, but also on their educations, careers and personal development: for instance, all Mighty Girls are recipients of an academic scholarship and have opportunities to go abroad and discover new countries. While the average age of the Mighty Girls is 16, the creation of Mighty Girls Development has allowed these opportunities to be offered to girls as young as 14.
Similar to the Mighty Girls program, the Summer School targets girls only, and is a two-month program held while school is out during the summer. Girls are offered a variety of activities and classes to improve their emotional resilience and financial independence, and make them successful individuals on the field, in school, and elsewhere.
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 youths 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.