A Plan International USA project that focuses on fun is making a big impact in El Salvador.
"The project will allow girls and boys to think about good things, and unite to do good things," said 15-year-old Jessica.
Jessica is taking part in the Champions of Change project, which presents an opportunity to play soccer and give teenagers the opportunitiy to discover themselves, and explore their inherent strengths, thus benefiting the families they love so much.
For Jessica, the project provides hope.
She, like the majority of adolescents in the area, has few academic opportunities. Her community school provides education up to the sixth grade, and whoever apsires to a higher-grade education must leave the community, thus incurring additional daily expenses. In addition, there is the risk of exposure to violence from gangs controlling territories in areas where higher-grade education is provided.
Jessica has only been able to reach ninth grade. But, because she and her family live in extreme poverty, she has temporarily suspended her studies. She continues to stay motivated and has all the skills to manage her academics.
If something makes her quit, it is due to causes beyond her control.
Currently, she helps her mother take care of her grandmother and an older brother who has motor impairment, further minimizing her educational opportunities. Plan awarded an adolescent scholarship so she could advance academically, but that was not possible because of the family’s situation. Additionally, the risk due to gang territory control exacerbates these difficulties.
“… She is the only one who helps me,” her mother, Delores, said. “My daughter is a hard worker and my husband works in the field. We have very little money to buy everything my mother and my other son need because he cannot walk."
The sport of soccer is a small skills development opportunity. It is the only activity available to Jessica and other girls and adolescents in the area, aside from the accustomed daily routine.
Jessica happens to be an outstanding soccer player, who discovered her taste for the sport thanks to municipal programs.
The project promotes changes in attitude and increases knowledge regarding gender relations, encouraging the development of respect between girls and boys, modifications in cultural structures, and a safer and healthier coexistence.
It is an opportunity for Jessica to learn and grow – and it is a chance for a brighter future.
"This project is good because the children will learn good things,” said Delores.