Girls have so many needs in Belize. Many of them simply need an environment to be loved and cared for by a mentor. They need examples of courageous and brave females who would show a path they can follow. Research shows that the highest indicator of a healthy community in Latin America, is found in the level of education of the mother in a family. So while high school is not required by the government and many girls are not expected to pursue higher education, it is imperative to create an outlet where hope can be alive and dreams can be nurtured through values such as courage, leadership, and self-confidence.. If we can keep them in school, education can further empower them and transform their community.
Sports Servants’ Girls Camp was founded in the summer of 2007 by volunteer Abby Butler. She was intrigued by the idea of starting something “solo chicitas”–only for girls. The response was unique and inspiring because it is such a rare moment for a girl to be asked to participate in something just for her. The idea took some explaining around the village of Cristo Rey, but ever since the first week of Girls Camp, we have been dreaming about the emergence of female opportunity a result of organized sports programs.
Sometimes you don’t know what’s possible until it happens before your eyes. This is the case with Perla Ku and Edna Che, our Girls Camp leaders for their village of Cristo Rey. They started out as a campers in Girls Camp in 2007 and they befriended Abby and the other US volunteers quickly. From that summer, relationships and trust were formed that would lead to an amazing story during the summer of 2009. Perla and Edna asked to be leaders for Girls Camp and kept the camp going once the American volunteers left, holding camps on the weekends once school started. The friendship extended by the American volunteers allowed them to form friendships and see the first glimpse of what it could be like to be a female role model for other girls.
On the big picture level, Perla and Edna are changing the way sports are viewed; the impact it is having on the girls is tremendous. At 17 years old, many people would label them unlikely candidates to be coaches in their village. But then again, providing organized soccer programs exclusively to girls is also a unique sight in Belize. It is an image these female leaders are helping us change. And we believe more Perlas and Ednas are to be found in other villages. Like so many of the Belizean youth, opportunities to lead or engage the community are lacking.
We don’t believe we made Perla and Edna leaders. We believe it was already inside of them, but we helped to draw it out and gave them an opportunity to pursue their passions. It is the American Sports Servants’ role to engage and stir the hearts of the Belizeans so their hopes and dreams will rise to the surface.