"The hunger for love is stronger than the hunger for bread"
Yonus (renamed for identity protection)
coach & Mentor
Yonus was orphaned at a young age and lived in poverty. He was approached five times by an extremist leader who offered wealth, power, and education if he would join. At great personal sacrifice, Yonus resisted that path and volunteered to coach and mentor three different girls soccer teams. Yonus is a Hiwot mentee and a powerful force for good- he now works alongside us, including in our work among tribal groups and refugees.
the sudan border
HIWOT works with 24 villages along the Sudan border, challenging young men to advocate for change in their communities through soccer. This includes facing the most difficult issues of the region: gender inequality, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, selling of girls and women, and more. The response has been incredible, including two village chiefs who have committed to impacting communal change, men who are advocating for women's rights (with over 70 women and girls now going to school for the first time), and even husbands who have broken tribal customs to allow their wives to give birth in their home rather than the forest. There has been such dramatic change that the local government has taken notice and asked us and this people group to train other tribes in the region.
“We never thought we would see this day. It’s the only time we have run for fun and not obligation to harvest, or to bring water and grain to feed our family. Nobody sent us to school, and we are forced to marry at a very young age so we have never had an opportunity to be included and learn like this- thank you.”
"We are hungry and have nothing, but the fact that you invited us and played with us has shown us that we are worthy even when we aren't to anyone else around us."
We work first to return their sense of worth and ownership, to move from a victim mentality to a knowledge of the power they have to change their lives and others for the better. We work with them to write down their own goals and to think through how they will achieve them. Then, we connect them with other NGO's who specifically work with street youth to place them in school, etc. Many are now top of their class in school and they have formed a soccer team where they compete competitively around the country.
"My life goal is to return back what has been given to me and help the many other homeless kids who are hopeless like I used to be"
In this society, women (and especially those with disabilities) are seen as unworthy of anyone's time or love, and they hold little potential. We run soccer programs for a hearing impaired girls and boys team. There are many challenges we face with this, as they are often not given any field space or time as they are not seen as a priority.
We often arrange for a North American team exchange, and this year we arranged a match for the boys silent soccer team. The North American team decided that they would not speak through the whole match to make it a 'fair game'. It was powerful- no words being spoken but equality being communicated. Even for the fans observing it communicated that these players on the silent soccer team are worthy, they are important and valued for a team from across the world to come and make time to play their team.
We have trained another coach through our Coaching4Life course, which equipped him with the ability to have holistic impact on his players. The goal in the long-term is to provide life and leadership development, as well as skills, employment connections, and opportunities for the players.
"We have been gathering for 3 years to try and communicate that we belong too, and are capable in spite of our disability. This is the first time in years that we have had our spirits lifted; when we play soccer we can forget our challenging circumstances, and are proven capable."
Globalization has intricately connected the worlds problems, including the Refugee crisis. Ethiopia is the largest host nation of refugees in Africa according to the UN (mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea). These people also comprise a large majority of the 'boat people'; refugees whom you see on the news willing to risk death to cross by boat into Europe and later with the hope to reach North America.
We work with a team of Somali Refugees- providing life and leadership training through soccer. The Somali coach also took the Coaching4Life course, and the North-American team played against this team in a friendly match to inspire hope and perseverance.
"this is the only thing that has an answer for the challenges we face, including facing death trying to cross the Mediterranean for a better life."
There are many extremist ideologies that prey on people in this exact situation, but by offering a positive alternative solution that touches the deepest internal part of the person, they can know themselves and know they are valued and have much to offer to make this world a better place.
We also train refugees in the Northern Refugee camps through the Coaching4Life course. By meeting the refugee crisis and addressing the root of the global crisis, we have the potential to change the world and multiply ourselves so that even refugees can be leading positive change with hope and purpose in the camps or beyond, regardless of which country they end up ultimately going to. We equip the coaches and they multiply this training to the tens of thousands of children and youth in the camps to provide hope and purpose.