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It Takes a Team: Compassion UK are Championing Girls in Sport and Beyond

Compassion UK

“We have found that girls are more likely to overcome challenges when they’re surrounded by a loving community that not only meets their basic needs but that champions them. With encouragement, they begin believing they can reach their dreams, which changes everything,” says Agnes Hotay, Compassion’s Senior Director of Regional Programme in Africa. International child development charity, Compassion UK is building teams of support around millions of girls across the world, helping them to succeed.

Abandoned by her parents and taken in by her grandmother, 12-year-old Karla was vulnerable to targeting by dangerous gangs in her El Salvador community. Finding escapism in football, Karla often hid in her house, watching the beautiful game. When she visited the Compassion project in her community for the first time and saw a football lying on the ground, she knew she had to try it for herself.

Above: Karla’s football skills have gone from strength to strength thanks to her support team

 

Coach Jesus, the local football coach at the project, began teaching Karla exercises and techniques to help her improve. Her skills grew quickly and, seeing her potential, Coach Jesus offered to support her in joining the local team, progressing to become their captain.

Karla’s grandmother is her biggest cheerleader, but she needs help to get her to practices. Coach Jesus offered to accompany Karla to training sessions for the National League. She’s not old enough to join the team yet, but the National League coach invited Karla to join their training sessions in the meantime. Thanks to the encouragement and support of her grandmother, coaches, and all the staff and volunteers at her Compassion project, Karla is chasing after her dreams of a bright future.

The data concerning girls, especially those living in poverty, presents a daunting reality. Globally, girls face a higher risk of abuse, exploitation, and denial of their basic rights. Human trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, with 7 out of 10 victims falling into this category (UNODC). 130 million girls worldwide are denied an education, and 70% of the world’s hungry are women and girls (UN).

 

To overcome these challenges, girls need concerned, loving adults and communities of support to protect and champion them.

 

Compassion UK, in its mission to release children from poverty, firmly believes there's hope for positive change. Compassion works through the local church in 29 countries to deliver programmes focused on holistic child development. Local partners recognise the unique risks facing girls living in their communities, and Compassion can resource and equip local partners on how to best respond. Compassion ensures girls have a team behind them of loving caregivers, sponsors and frontline churches, all playing a role in offering safety, protection and support. Girls are empowered to thrive and focus on reaching their dreams.

 

This approach has demonstrated remarkable results in improving the lives of girls in various countries. In the Philippines, children in Compassion programming are 81% more likely to attend vocational school and 29% more likely to attend college. In Haiti, they’re 44% more likely to have an income-generating skill. In Ethiopia, they’re 26% more likely to complete a higher level of education.

 

Hotay continues: “Championing girls, by providing them with opportunities to thrive educationally, in their well-being, nutritionally, and relationally, helps them to grow up to become leaders in their communities. Through Compassion’s frontline churches, a child receives over 4,000 hours of developmental support. Be it in the form of tutoring and Bible study or through playing a sport—all of it delivered from support of a loving, caring adult. In whatever way it happens, these adults, and the surrounding community, are crucial in a child’s development.”

This month, 732 players are travelling to Australia and New Zealand for the kick off the Women’s World Cup, along with scores of support staff. The team behind each player is almost uncountable, from managers, to physiotherapists, to parents and friends all providing valuable background support. These footballers know it all too well:

Charlotte Lynch footballer for the Leyton Orient ladies FC, content creator and sports journalist, remembers her own support network, both on and off the field: “I am where I am today because of the help of a team of people. Most of us living fulfilled lives have a group of caring adults to thank for championing us when we were children. It’s even more important for girls living in poverty without access to the same resources and it’s a significant way we can help girls fulfil their God-given potential.

Aubrey Kingsbury, United States Women’s National Team goalkeeper, also knows how crucial a team is in her success. She says, “I haven’t become the football player I am today on my own. It’s been the result of a team of people—coaches, my parents, teachers—championing me to pursue my dream. Children, especially girls, need people on their team, cheering them on, to help them believe in themselves.

This is true for Karla, and girls just like her as they chase their dreams; a supportive team makes all the difference for millions of girls facing adversity, especially those living in poverty.

Above: Karla’s football skills have gone from strength to strength thanks to her support team

 

Be part of the team for a girl like Karla through Compassion:

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