At the most fundamental level, sport and play are children’s rights, as detailed in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Additionally, there is today a broad consensus that regular physical activity is essential for the physical, mental, psychological and social development of children and adolescents. In the long run, involvement in sports can boost children’s health, improve their academic performance and help reduce crime rates.
Sport, recreation and play are a fun way to learn values and lessons that will last a lifetime. They promote friendship and fair play. They teach team work, discipline, respect, and the coping skills necessary to ensure that children develop into caring individuals. Team sports are a powerful agent for change and an effective programmatic tool to help achieve goals in health, education, gender equality, HIV/AIDS, child protection and child development. Sport is not just an end in itself, but also an effective tool to help improve the lives of children, families and communities.
With this in mind, our overall vision is to create an environment in which sport contributes to equal treatment, better development, and peaceful competition. It is a vision that we share with the United Nations; in his 2013 support message, Wilfried Lemke, the UN Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace referenced our organization and the activities we lead, and spoke of the potential of our programs for grassroots, female empowerment.
In 2015, the UN office on Sport for Development and Peace held a video contest in which organizations who work with sport around the world were invited to showcase their programs. Along with those of nine other organizations, SALT Academy’s video was selected to be used in the future as promotional material for the UNOSDP:
As such, our mission here at SALT Academy is threefold:
- First, we strive to provide the Cambodian youth with recreational activities through a community-based football program which teaches life skills and builds positive relationships where individuals are considered equals and have a safe environment in which to exchange ideas and experiences.
- Second, we wish to encourage community groups to network and build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships, reaching out to their neighbours using football as a common enabling structure through the organization of community festivals and events.
- Third, we focus on promoting gender equality by working to convince the community and families that women can also play football, in the hope that commonly held visions of traditional gender roles can be challenged on the football field.
To see our mission realized, we follow four broad strategies which aim to target the core obstacles to development in Cambodia today:
- Providing opportunities for gainful employment to youth;
- Combatting human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and drug addiction;
- Improving the quality of education and graduation rates;
- Increasing access to quality football training.
If you happen to have experience with one or more of these strategies, feel free to get more information on how you can get involved with our programs here.
As a follow-through on our programs, a vocational training program was developed to increase the sustainability of SALT’s core activities. Specifically, the goal is to create young leaders with the tools to run community sport initiatives in the future. In this light, we ask for our partners in the communities to select the participants for this program.
The program’s core areas cover leadership and decision-making, so that the participants may learn coaching techniques. This way, they may become young leaders with the information necessary to deliver pre-game life skills lessons to league players. Furthermore, they are educated on drug prevention, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, in the hope that they can then raise awareness of these issues when back in their communities.
The structure of this program has been standardized over the years, with an initial orientation followed by a series of weekly refresher courses. So as to single out the participant’s weaknesses and address them, continuous evaluations of their progress are carried out. In the end, this program is designed with the aim of educating each youth leader individually so that they may eventually take on paid positions in their respective specialties, whether that’d be coaching, refereeing, or organizing festivals.
This works into our overall vision of employing football to foster sustainable development at the grassroots level of Cambodian society: by strengthening the capacity of local leaders, we hope to encourage the use of football to better the lives of Cambodian youth in rural communities.