Sports: A tool for developing societies?

As I was researching for organizations that contribute to society, one in particular came into my attention, the UK charity Kick4Life (K4L). This charity uses soccer as a tool to promote health education and awareness in the developing world. This organization, founded in 2005, has generated significant changes in one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, Lesotho (Africa).

Lesotho is the third country with the largest amount of HIV cases in the world, indeed 23.6% of worldwide HIV cases are in Lesotho. K4L was created to address this use and it operates in the Football for Hope Centre at Lesotho for this reason. The organization’s main objective is to use sports to generate positive changes in this community and support vulnerable young people by providing them with live skills, mentoring, education and employment.

Kick4Life is partnered with organizations such as, UNICEF, Primer League, Microsoft, Nedbank, Standard Chartered and Lesotho Football Association. Additionally, it is an active part of international networks such as Beyond Sport and Street Football World. It constantly works with international coaches, soccer players and leaders. For example, Fabio Capello, a famous Italian soccer coach, collaborated with Steve Fleming (K4L CEO) in the book “Eleven,” which is a book about how soccer can help people overcome poverty, war and disease.

What I find impressive from this organization is the vast amount of projects that are implemented by them, which have improved Lesotho’s social and economic problems. The following projects are their main projects which focus on HIV prevention and testing.

  • The K4L curriculum: this project provides health education and skills to children between 12 and 18 years old. It is done by volunteers who perform as teachers and coaches. This project is focused in preventing HIV by providing education and skills, such as, self-esteem, teamwork and discipline. Additionally, it aims to reduce the stigma against the disease and provide free HIV counseling and testing.
  • Red Card campaign: it is an interactive drama skirt to raise awareness on risky behaviors. Each read card holds specific behaviors that could predispose individuals to HIV.
  • The ICT campaign: it is a campaign to generate awareness of HIV through mobile texting; so far it has generated 250,000 responses.
  • K4L FC: a soccer team that does international tours to deliver this organization’s message to other countries.
  • Test your Team: a one day soccer tournament to generate HIV prevention awareness and provide free testing. Teams earn points by attending to HIV educational sessions and testing.

K4L also implements other kinds of projects for Care and Support. These kinds of projects are individual care plans to generate wellbeing for people in disadvantage conditions. Such projects are: Mentoring and Referrals, the Literacy Project, Women vs Women (focused on supporting vulnerable women) and the Fit4Work, which is a week course that provides employment skills.

Finally, this organization has a variety of projects focused on Social Enterprise. These projects’ goal is to empower skills and opportunities for the development of the whole community. Projects include the Recycle Scheme, the Super League –a soccer tournament with the participation of different businesses to generate awareness, and the Siyakhona, which empowers the population with skills on the use of media.

This organization has reached 40,000 young people, has tested 10,000 people for HIV and has referred 350 people to ongoing medical treatment. Additionally, hundreds of orphans and vulnerable young people continuously participate in activities provided by the organization. K4L has received a variety of international awards such as the International Beyond Sport Award for Health.

Kick4Life is a great example that demonstrates how powerful sports can be. Sports are not only a form of entertainment. Because of their strong relationship with society and people, they can really be used to generate positive changes and contribute to the wellbeing of a society. And as many businesses and organizations find new ways to market themselves through sports, others use sports for the development of disadvantaged societies and to deliver messages of hope.

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