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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Soccer Without Borders

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Ethnic & Immigrant Centers, Human Services, Immigration, International, International Cultural Exchange, International Exchange, Sports, Youth Development

Mission: Soccer Without Borders uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing under-served youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success.

Results: In the past year, SWB has worked with 2300 youth from 68 countries across our domestic and international programs. Additionally, SWB engaged nearly 5,000 thousand additional youth through outreach and one-day events. SWB’s mission of facilitating growth, inclusion and personal success for underserved youth is made possible by the quantity of direct hours invested at our programs (average core participants spend 10-15 hours/week with SWB), and our investment over time. 76% of youth returned to SWB from last year to this year, a retention rate that continued even into the teen years, when 70% of youth in the US drop out of organized sport. That depth of programming creates a team environment where youth can experience: Personal Development: We measure our participants' personal development using the externally-validated High Impact Attributes survey. In our most recent year, more than 90% of participants demonstrated positive outcomes in positive identity, future focus, plan B thinking, discipline, pro-social connections, and well-being. Social Capital & Mentorship 94% of participants reported that they accept people from other cultures and the same number reported that they had made friends from another culture at SWB. 93% reported that they trust their coach and the same number reported that they feel safe at SWB. Academic Advancement: A recent Palo Alto University dissertation showed that SWB Oakland participants were significantly less absent from school than their peers, and showed improved social self-efficacy. Language Development: 99% of SWB USA participants are English language learners; 91% reported that they feel comfortable using English at SWB. 97% of SWB Nicaragua participants (ages 7-19) advanced from one grade to the next in 2017. In Nicaragua, more than half of students drop out of school before 7th grade.

Target demographics: SWB USA creates positive team communities for newcomer refugee, asylee and immigrant youth. Each year, close to 80,000 refugees and 500,000 immigrants arrive in the US seeking peace and a chance for a better future. Newcomer youth are one of the most vulnerable populations in the seven US cities where SWB programs operate. Not only are these youth navigating a new culture and language, their often-traumatic backgrounds create significant barriers to traditional models of academic and social “success.” The difficulty of integration is compounded by many unfortunate social realities that exist in the communities where SWB programs operate. The combination of poverty, urban violence, and cultural isolation lead many newcomer to youth to feel hopeless, with a National school drop-out rate of more than 40%. SWB International focuses on engaging populations that are traditionally excluded or marginalized, with a particular emphasis on engaging girls.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 2300

Geographic areas served: USA: Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Greeley, CO; Oakland, CA International: Granada, Nicaragua; Kampala, Uganda; Afghanistan Women's National Team; Nepal Past Programs in: Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Africa, Zambia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles

Programs: Our holistic, year-round program model includes five main program activities: Soccer play and instruction - We provide the equipment, coaching, and transportation needed to help participants of all skill levels pass, dribble, score, sweat, win, lose, learn, and celebrate together in organized practices and games. Educational support - We provide academic and language development support, high school and college preparation, as well as workshops on nutrition, wellness, mindfulness, healthy relationships and any other topics that are most important to them. Team-building - With the team unit as the centerpiece of our program model, we prioritize low adult-to-participant ratios and utilize deliberate team and program-building strategies to create an inclusive community that transcends differences. Civic Engagement - We connect our programs and participants to the local and global community through themed events and team service projects, creating key leadership opportunities off the field. Cultural Exchange - We emphasize dialogue, understanding, and friendship across cultures through intentional activities including the use of grouping strategies, themed events, and opportunities for meaningful exchange. Youth enter SWB at varying levels of soccer ability, English ability, and comfort in their communities; flexibility and innovation are key. Our core, team-based program offers 10-15 hours per week of on and off field activities for more than 35 weeks per year to middle and high school-aged participants. This creates a feeling that goes beyond team: SWB becomes family. During a typical week, depending on the age group, a participant will attend 2-5 academic or language workshops, 3-5 soccer practices and games, and 2-5 hours of team-building activities or informal time with their coaches and teammates. The dosage of activities increases as youth enter the critical adolescent years, when choices have greater consequences and the pressures to engage in negative behaviors increase. Our elementary school programs are lighter touch (1 day/week, 20 weeks and/or summer camp) and serve as feeders for middle and high school) During the year, all programs also participate in global events (ex: World Refugee Day, International Day for Sport for Development and Peace, etc. ) while designing specific activities to support integration and inclusion with non-newcomer community members.

Community Stories

60 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the wonderful opportunity to work as a Fellow at Soccer Without Borders in Baltimore this summer, and I have loved every second of it. My experience thus far has been eye-opening, heart-warming, and most of all, inspiring. The SWB community is is incredibly welcoming and connecting with the students has been very rewarding. SWB very thoughtfully uses soccer as a tool to teach these kids the importance of respect, inclusivity, compassion, and leadership. I have loved witnessing some of the students grow in their English skills and watching their personalities blossom just in the few months that I have known them. This opportunity has also provided me with a lot of knowledge as to what the process looks like for refugee/asylee/immigrant families upon their arrival, and this has allowed me to be a great source of information for any other newcomer families I know who are in need of assistance. SWB and all of the students here have inspired me tremendously, and I am grateful for the experiences I have had here!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer at SWB Baltimore, I have experienced a great sense of community in this organization. I really enjoyed and still enjoy my time spent here because not only are the coaches and interns amazing and caring, but also the kids are a joy to be around.

The combination of the soccer and homework help portions really benefit the kids holistically.

Many life skills are embedded in the game of soccer, and the coaches do a great job of instilling a sense of teamwork and creativity that can be applied on and off the soccer field. Further, after the soccer portion, the whole group gathers around, and the coach leads shout outs or "kilos" acknowledging kids that performed well. I really enjoy the kilos because its pretty awesome to see kids compliment their fellow teammates .

The homework help is highly useful too as it allows kids to ask questions they otherwise are not able to during school. Since school for them can be quite challenging since the teachers can go too fast, the small ratio of tutors to kids serves to address their individual concerns. Although explaining concepts that I learned more than a decade ago can be quite difficult (e.g. what is a ratio) , it is really rewarding when the kid finally understands my convoluted and confusing explanation!

Overall, SWB is a great program that empowers the kids on and off the pitch. I had a great time volunteering, and I hope to continue to do so!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love volunteering and working with kids, so when I moved to Boston I got involved with Soccer Without Borders as an academic and English tutor. This year, I have started serving as an assistant coach for the middle school girls team. Volunteering with SWB is consistently one of the best parts of my week. I love getting to know the kids, helping out with drills and scrimmages, and watching them grow into more confident soccer players.

The organization itself, specifically the Boston chapter, is wonderful. The coaches care deeply about each and every participant, and they work extremely hard to create the best experiences for the kids, whether it is through well planned practices, trips into Boston, or team building activities. It is a privilege to be a part of an organization that serves as such a positive force in the community, and I look forward to volunteering for years to come.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with this incredible organization for the past two years and I hope to be involved with them for many years to come. Soccer Without Borders has a culture unlike any organization I have ever seen. Every day I would arrive at camp I would be greeted with tons of smiles and hugs. I have never had the privilege of being part of something so special until I discovered Soccer Without Borders. At the summer camp in Oakland I got to make new friends, meet new people, and watch the kids come out of their shells and flourish into amazing people. I feel so blessed to be a part of a program that has such a large impact on the Bay Area and beyond. Thank you Soccer Without Borders for everything you do.

K. Paige Wheeler F.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with Soccer Without Borders in Oakland for over a year, and help to coach the U12/u14 girls' teams. Our weekly practice and game days are consistently the best days of my week. I see girls grow as individuals, make new friends , and make critical connections to a community of friends and adult mentors that would have otherwise been unavailable to them.

In our summer camp, I saw the over 350 kids come through the camp. While soccer is the platform, joy and confidence are the outcome. I loved coaching my young campers, but even more I enjoyed working with my assistant coach - an SWB player in her teens — and seeing her clear love of teaching, supporting, and being with kids who looked to her as a role model. Which she was and is. And like most of our players, she's an athlete and a scholar; we graduate students from high school at a 50% higher rate than those in this cohort who aren't affiliated with SWB.

I now have multiple player who are interested in being coaches themselves in the future and see it as an opportunity to give back to kids just like them. Even at their young age, they recognize that Soccer Without Borders helps girls find their voice. It's an amazing organization, with leadership and staff who are committed to helping each and every participant be the best they can be - as a person, well beyond the pitch.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In the world of international nonprofits I've worked with, Soccer Without Borders stands as a beacon, a role model, a gold standard. Too many organizations lose sight of localized impact as they face the challenges of scale, standardization, and fundraising -- but this is and always will be the value that drives SWB. SWB brings together some of the most basic and core tenants of humanity to its youth participants, fostering true community, inclusion, belonging, purpose, effective communication, the importance of teamwork, and life-changing value of education. These are fundamental to the growth, identity, and potential of any young adult, and particularly so in SWB's demographic that spans culture, nationality, language, economic status, and history of trauma and relocation.

I am so grateful that I've had the opportunity to get to know SWB and support through volunteering. I'm so impressed by the meaningful work they do every day and will continue to support and promote this incredible organization!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been working with SWB as a volunteer for about two years. It has been one of the better experiences in my life, interacting with many cultures, always meeting new friends. I volunteer every Wednesday and I now consider it part of my life. Volunteering with SWB is a great way to combine my passion for soccer and share it with an amazing group of people such as the SWB community.
I view SWB as a lifestyle!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Dan O'Connor -- Coach and volunteer with Soccer Without Borders for several years.

As a lifelong soccer player & fan with an interest in international relations, critical issues, immigration, and humanitarian affairs, I was very lucky to stumble upon Soccer Without Borders. I know very well from my own life experience the way in which playing on a team can change lives, and so I am very happy to volunteer with SWB and give that opportunity back to people in my community. I have only ever participated in the Boston program (this is my home) but I have heard great things about the other national chapters as well. In the past few years, I have assistant-coached elementary, middle school, and high school boys, as well as the middle school girls.

Great people, responsible organization, deserving participants, and loads and loads of fun. I am so happy to be involved as a volunteer and may one day look to increase my participation in the organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering with SWB Oakland's U14 boys team in the fall of 2017, just after I relocated to the Bay Area. I wanted to get involved with the community, serve as a mentor, and have fun playing soccer! Over the past year, I've helped the team on game days, driving kids to the field, bringing snacks, and being an adult friend and mentor.

I started with high expectations, but never anticipated the amazing kinship, gratitude, and respect I would develop while serving in the program. The kids involved with SWB are some of the hardest working, courageous, and funniest people I've met in my life, and it has been an honor to play with them, mentor them, and grow with them over the past year. The SWB staff is equally as amazing. They are passionate, devoted, and truly care about the kids in the program. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with this awesome group of people, big and small, and I'm looking forward to helping for many seasons to come!

1 Jennifer Lynn N.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering with Soccer Without Borders in Boston last spring, and was searching for a volunteer opportunity that would allow me to share my love of soccer with children and adolescents. It has definitely done that, and far more. Working with the middle school girls is truly one of the highlights of my week. SWB not only teaches them how to play soccer, but also provides them with friendship, academic support, role models, and fun, often hilarious memories that will last a lifetime. As a nurse-midwife who primarily works with immigrant and refugee women, I know how difficult it can be for children, particularly adolescents and teenagers, to settle in to a new country. SWB helps ease some of that difficulty, and provides them with a safe space to share their struggles, triumphs, hopes, and dreams. It is amazing to see how empowered the girls feel after just a few successes in practice, be it learning a new skill, scoring a goal, or making a new friend. I highly recommend Soccer Without Borders to anyone who loves the sport, is passionate about youth development and immigrant rights, and has a heart for children.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered in 2017 with the Soccer Without Borders program in Nicaragua. This program is a true home to so many people, ranging from the players, coaches, and members of the Granada community, to volunteers like myself who had the opportunity to be welcomed there for a year. SWB is a model example of how to empower local communities, promote cultural exchange, and push for positive social change. I am so grateful to have had the chance to connect with and learn from its members and participants, and to be part of the Soccer Without Borders family.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Ask any young person who participates in SWB in Baltimore, Oakland, Boston, Colorado, Seattle, Uganda, or Nicaragua what SWB means to them, and they will say “family”. And that’s what it means to me too. I started with SWB Baltimore as an intern, coaching soccer and doing research on newcomer trends. I then shifted to Academic Director, overseeing all of our academic programming for middle and high schoolers. Then I left my official job at SWB to go to grad school. But here I am 3 years later and 3000 miles away serving on the advisory board of SWB’s newest site - Seattle.

SWB impacts young people in the most holistic sense. It’s a place where newcomers make friends, practice English, learn to navigate a new country, and can ultimately flourish into the best versions of themselves.

And on the day after the international day of the girl, I am especially happy and proud of the work SWB is doing to empower young women to be strong, confident, and badass on and off the soccer pitch.

I know I’ll remember my work with SWB as the most valuable work I’ve ever done.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I first became involved with Soccer Without Borders in Boston as one of the coaches on their middle school boys teams. SWB is an amazing youth focused organization with strong ties to the communities they serve. The level of engagement and care and concern of the stuff for the kids is unmatched in all of my volunteer experience. As I transitioned from Boston to Seattle I jumped at the chance to stay involved with the organization as they began to set up a new program in Seattle. SWB is truly a benefit for the kids involved and the communities they serve. I'm glad SWB continues to grow and help more youth and am looking forward to contributing to their continued growth and impact.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Soccer Without Borders is the most fulfilling volunteer experience I've ever had. I've coached youth soccer in other leagues, have tutored ESL students, and have worked with DC high school kids to help prepare them for college, but my time with SWB is truly incomparable. The coaches are incredibly welcoming, encouraging, and kind, and the kids - while they can at times be a handful! - bring me so much joy. It's a privilege to get to be a part of their journey growing up and playing soccer in the US. As a volunteer, I help run drills at practice, and come to the games when I can to cheer them on. It's great that there are uniforms (jerseys, shorts, socks) provided for all of the players and real league games with official referees and scorekeeping - it's not just scrimmages.

Every time I'm with the team, I have interactions with the kids that make me laugh or warm my heart. That's not to say it isn't often hard too - they've got a lot of energy, and the group I help out with (U-14 boys) at times likes to test the limits with authority. But that's all part of it, and every moment is worth it. The players seem to really enjoy coming to practices and games, and have really good relationships with SWB staff. Highly recommend :)

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered for SWB 3 years ago and it was the best experience of my life. I met wonderful people including the staff, other volunteers and the girls of this camp, all of whom I still talk to today. SWB gave me a new outlook on life and taught me so much more than just soccer drills. Living with my host family and immersing myself into their culture was an experience I still treasure to this day and will never forget!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer in Granada, Nicaragua several years ago, I had the opportunity to play a small part in the huge amount of work that SWB (aka Futbol sin Fronteras) does in Nicaragua. Witnessing the personal, academic, and athletic growth in the girls served by the program was an incredible experience. The Nicaragua staff running and serving the program are so dedicated to their girls and the mission of the organization!

Pietra S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had an absolutely amazing experience with Soccer Without Borders. The work they do makes such a positive impact on the girls involved and on the community as a whole. I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to spend time in Nicaragua with such a great organization and great people!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I worked with Soccer Without Borders while completing my Masters degree at Johns Hopkins. It was the most welcoming and fun environment, and I learned so much from the students. The coaches really know what they’re doing and care so much about the program, so it’s an infectious attitude and you can’t help get swept up in it! I’d highly recommend volunteering or interning with this organization if given the opportunity.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Absolutely wonderful organization to be a part of. Have worked with SWB in several capacities for almost 2 years now. Friendly, caring staff as well as a great overall mission. Would certainly highly recommend this to any person who asked me about it.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I spent a year (2011-2012) volunteering for SWB in Nicaragua. When I look back, it is still one of the most impactful years of my life. There were lots of ups and downs and very scary moments, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful opportunity to empower girls in the community and see them grow in soccer and life. I continue to follow what is happening with the program down there, and I am very happy to hear of their continued efforts in providing quality education for the girls. They are also providing them with opportunities to make their own way in this life and fulfill their dreams. SWB taught me a lot about life and helping others. I am happy to say that I am continuing to help youth in a full-time capacity and using the tools I gained from SWB to guide my efforts.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Soccer without Borders for three unforgettable years. I started three months after I moved from Italy where I spent 10 years of my life as a young immigrant and later as a professional soccer player. There have been lots of wonderful experiences with the SWB family like on my first day at practice at the circle-up when the coach asked everyone to share their names, countries, and favorite teams and soccer players, welcoming everyone and asking them about their journeys. There have also been significant moments at Saturday games or beach days. It has been so rewarding to meet the kids on their first days with SWB, to see them leaving practice alone, and a week later leaving in groups talking and laughing. These moments make me realize how important volunteering with SWB truly is. It gives the kids a home and what they really need: friends, integration into a community, and time to be their genuine selves. I feel very lucky to be a part of this organization accompanying the kids as they develop friendships and soccer skills. It is not only about soccer but also about sharing moments together, building relationships and a strong sense of teamwork, and learning from one another. I hope to be an active participant in the program for many years to come, but whether or not I am able to do so, I will always support this program with all my heart as it has taught me a great deal and supported me when I was a new immigrant myself.