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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 1800 youth from 59 countries across our domestic and international programs. Additionally, SWB engaged thousands of community members and families 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). 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 2016-17, 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 2016-2017. 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: 1800

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

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Rating: 5

I've had the pleasure to have volunteered with Soccer Without Borders since 2008, and I know first hand what an incredible difference they make in the lives of newcomer and refugee youth throughout the USA. I started volunteering as a summer camp soccer coach with SWB in Oakland, CA. The Soccer Without Borders soccer camp was a highlight both of my summers and those of the many incredible children I got to know and coach. In Oakland the camps brought together students who had found their way to California from all parts of the world, We had students from Myanmar, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, to name just a few. While their love for soccer brought these children together, SWB's camp was about so much more than soccer. We had activities that helped the kids build community and trust across cultures and languages. Inside the comfortable and safe space of a soccer field, the students also learned more English, found new friends, and discussed how to live a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally, in their city and neighborhoods. I've watched as SWB has grown and been able to provide more and more opportunities for support in summer and throughout the year. For the fortunate refugees and newcomers who have access to SWB, the organization now provides robust support to them and their families year round.My favorite moments with SWB always include seeing kids from totally different parts of the world, who share a history of turbulence, upheaval, and trauma, bonding together, laughing, and finding joy in their new home country. This doesn't happen by accident. SWB is so conscientious about how they train their staff and volunteers to run great youth programs and also how to be refugee/newcomer/trauma sensitive. I've also had the chance to see what an impact SWB can make for students over many years. I rejoice when I see that students who I coached almost 10 years ago, who could hardly speak a word of English and felt very shy, are now coaches themselves - helping to promote a program that helped them.Soccer Without Borders is an incredible nonprofit that is doing amazing work with some of the most vulnerable youth in our country.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Fighting Illini soccer team recently partnered with the Soccer Without Borders program for an amazing 10 day trip to Nicaragua. We were able to host clinics and work with young children and schools in Granada. The Illini also had the opportunity to spend a few days in Managua where the team had the opportunity to train with and compete against the Nicaragua Women's National team and the Nicaragua U-20 Women's National team. In addition to their time on the field, the Illini had some time to explore some of the beauty that the Nicaragua landscape has to offer. Below, the squad reflects on their time in Nicaragua. You can see from the athletes comments below it was an incredible life experience for the players. I can not thank SWB enough for facilitating this amazing experience and for the work that they do empowering young women in Granada and around the world. THANK YOU!!!!!

Kelly Maday
"Our 10-day trip to Nicaragua was an incredibly eye-opening experience. From the moment we arrived in Granada, the local girls and families generously opened up their hearts and homes to us. Although most of us are not the best Spanish speakers, the language of soccer was able to bring us together to form friendships full of smiles and laughter. The way these girls displayed their passion and love for the game left me feeling excited for the following day's adventure. The shared experience of soccer not only introduced us to some talented Nicaraguans, but this journey brought us closer together as a team. The bonds forged with the Fighting Illini Soccer team and these inspiring girls and women will be remembered for the rest of our lives."

Jaelyn Cunningham
"I am very grateful for this experience, I think we grew as individuals and as a team. I hope we had as much of an impact on the kids' lives as they made on ours. Also, I cannot thank the Soccer Without Borders staff enough for their hospitality."
"Hopefully we can contribute to growing their passion for the game" -Jaelyn Cunningham

Darci Dietrich
"Our trip to Nicaragua was amazing. It was amazing to see the passion and love of the game in the children's eyes, and it reminded me why I started playing soccer in the first place! Despite the language barrier between us, it was so cool to see how the kids' faces would light up when we interacted with them, it's amazing how just a little bit of time can have such an impact on others. It was also such a unique experience to get to train with and compete against the National team and share our collective passion of the game!"

Kara Marbury
"Getting to travel to Nicaragua in general was quite an experience, but getting to travel there with a program (SWB) that focuses on the empowerment of girls, was an even greater experience. The early mornings and long days were well worth it, in exchange for the smiles we got to put on the faces of the young girls in the program. From living in home stays, to playing the U20 and Nicaraguan Women's National Teams, to touring the city, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in a culture that is much different than our own."

Patricia George
"I had a wonderful experience in Nicaragua with both the Illini soccer team and the staff and the kids in the Soccer Without Borders program. It was really fun just to go out and see the smiles on the children's faces when we practiced and played pick-up games with them. This trip made me realize how fortunate I really am, and I couldn't be anymore grateful for the experience."
"Even though Illini Soccer is leaving Nicaragua, Nicaragua will never leave our hearts."

Lauren Ciesla
"I had an incredible experience in Nicaragua! Having the opportunity to use the platform of soccer to encourage and empower young girls was special to be a part of. I hope that we were able to touch and impact the lives of the people we came in contact with because I know I left Nicaragua changed forever in a positive way."

Lauren Smitherman
"On the 10th day in Nicaragua, I took some time to reflect on our trip while kayaking. During that time, I was just reminiscing on the week and really taking it all in. I realized that, yes, it was tough at times but this trip was something I will never forget and hopefully I will come back. Writing this, I already miss the smiling faces of the girls, and Pablo and Nicholas from the neighborhood. These people have very little but are always happy and smiling. I remember one time Pablo and Nicholas came to Tres Pisos and hadn't even eaten lunch yet. They were hungry, but were still smiling, laughing and joking like they had not a care in the world. I want to come back here and potentially take a larger role in helping and changing the lives of others."

Sarah Warren
"I had such an amazing time experiencing the culture and beauty of Nicaragua with the team! Working with the kids was, by far, my favorite part because you saw how a simple action went such a long way. These kids showed such a love for the game that inspired all of us to not only try to see the best in every situation, but also reconnect with the love for the game within ourselves!"

Katie Murray
"Nicaragua was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hearts were touched, friends were made, and new perspectives were obtained, all while sharing our love for soccer."

Lexi Carrier
"Nicaragua provided us with an unforgettable experience. The country as a whole has opened our eyes to so much more. Even though the Soccer without Borders girls spoke a different language, we were all able to share laughs and smiles while playing the sport we love."

Morgan Maroney
"Nicaragua was a great experience for our team, I think that we really took advantage of the opportunity to empower young women by setting an example during their practices and during our games against the Nicaraguan national teams. I hope that we left a lasting impression in the young girls' minds that will motivate them to continue to pursue their love for soccer."

Arianna Veland
"Nicaragua was a very eye-opening experience. It was amazing to see how the people in Granada and Managua lived their day-to-day lives, and it definitely made me appreciate what I have and the opportunities I have been given."