Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Girl Power

Just yesterday we finished our week of celebrating Day of the Girl. The very foundation of our program is built upon the principle that girls have the power and potential to affect change and advance our world. As such, there is no better cause to celebrate than the Day of the Girl. An international recognition and celebration of girls and their enormous potential is a vital and central piece of our entire program. Full of moments of learning and powerful interactions, the week was truly amazing.

We began the week by learning about inspiring girls from all over the world. We learn about Malala from Pakistan (just in time for her interview on the Daily Show.) We were awed by Bethany Hamilton from the U.S and her story of perseverance. And we were truly wowed by Thandiwe from Zambia who, as an 8 year old, rallied 60 kids to march for education rights. Afterwards we engaged in conversations about why education is important to us and why it is important to have dreams. On Friday, the Day of the Girl, we watched (and loved!) the new SWB Video about our site and a short slide show, as a way to get girls’ thinking about what the program has meant for them. Then each girl was paired with a girl from a different age group. They interviewed each other about their past, present and future and decorated pictures about who they were as children, who they are now and who they want to be. They discussed some of their proudest moments and biggest fears and shared their dreams of going to university, playing on the national team, and becoming successful professionals. One of the most touching things for me was seeing my older girls, who so often are “too cool for school” working with the youngest 6 and 7 year olds. They instantly become very patient and great listeners and their interactions were both funny and poignant.

Two of my favorites (shh I'm not supposed to say that..)

I want to have control of my future and provide for myself. 

"I can be incredible."

On Saturday we went out to the field and completed a number of super fun field day activities. Split into four teams of mixed ages, participants completed tasks like cross “lava” together on a sheet, a technical soccer skills ladder, an egg toss, and a wheelbarrow race. It was a blast, of course, but what made the events really special was that after each station, each team had to find a different quote from girls around the world, inspired by the Girl Declaration. At the end each team had collected seven quotes about the dreams and hopes of girls just like them. We then decorated posters with the quotes. Girls also added their own hopes and thoughts. “We have a right to play and a right to study,” wrote one girl. “Girls are strong,” wrote another.

The week in its entirety was all at once reflective, fun-filled, forward-looking, and most of all inspiring. It brought light to girls’ stories from all over the world, it bonded girls of different ages within the program, and provoked each participant to think about what is important to them, both right now and in their futures. It seemed that participants finished the week feeling empowered by their individual and collective strength as girls. All in all an amazing week. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


What makes a home a home? At the beginning of September, my parents, both my brothers, my cousin and my aunt came to visit. We spent part of the week here in Granada, one day on island volcano Ometepe, and two days in an incredible eco-lodge in San Juan del Sur. Highlights were many…from pottery making, to volcano climbing, swimming in a fresh water spring and a crater lake, body surfing in the Pacific, kayaking in Lake Nicaragua, ziplining and a LOT of eating. Our activities were fun and full of laughs, but smaller moments were what I really relished. I woke up early to make coffee with my Dad and loved grocery shopping with my Mom. My little brother and I perfected the daiquiri with Nicaraguan rum, my older brother and I perfected the swim across the small house pool with no strokes, and my cousin and I definitely crushed the hammock hangout. Of course the week went by way too fast, but I loved the little moments of regularity, little slices of my home… meals and conversations, card games and walks. It was great to show my family Granada: my new home and the program and all my girls. But what makes a home a home is the presence of the people you care about most. My home away from home was complete. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

A special job

What makes this "job" special? A lot of things make it unlike many other jobs. First of all, it is not 9-5...ever. I spend most mornings preparing activities and practices, reaching out to different businesses or   local non-profits, updating our social media. We do not really have a real office space nor a particular daily routine. Many days I spend more time than I would like running to develop pictures or talking to the mayor's office about our field or getting supplies for the office...literally sometimes running around a city to get it all done. In the afternoon or early evening, we have practice or an activity or a game or a study hour or house visits or some combination. The end of the day is often the "real meat," if you will, and is usually stuff on which I judge my whole day or sometimes week. Because sometimes try as we might to avoid it, an activity turns into a mess, a girl cries or refuses to participate, a practice is dragging or a game is lackluster. And though those days happen, and I think they happen to everyone, sometimes, maybe every couple weeks or sometimes even longer, another type of day happens. A day where I spend the whole day planning every last detail of an activity and collecting and preparing just the right materials. A day where the girls arrive at the office all with spirited grins and can-do attitudes. A day where each girl is eager to participate and excited to learn from one another. A day where every girl sprints to win competitions and shout raucously in support of one another. A day that ends in uncontrollable laughter and spontaneous high fives among teammates. A day where an activity spills over two hours but no one seems to notice. 

One of those days happened yesterday. And reminded me that what makes this job special is that it is not really a job at all. It is so much more than that. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I am still here

Hello from Granada!!!

I did not get eaten by a bull shark in Lake Nicaragua, despite my long term absence from my blog. The past several months have been chock-full of transitions, new faces, and busy-ness. None of that is a good excuse though for falling off the grid and as such, I want to say sorry. For all of you who contributed to my fundraising and believe in all our efforts here, you deserve to know what is going on. I will try my best to recap the past few months without boring you to tears. And I further pledge to write at least twice a month from now on.


In June our Nicaraguan coaches participated in an Inter-American Women's Soccer Exchange and flew (many of them for the first time) to the U.S. for two weeks. They were able to coach camps in Boston and at Dartmouth and participate in workshops. They absolutely crushed the Dartmouth dining hall and were able to see a Big Papi in action at Fenway...all in all a very cool experience for them. They also left with a Team Leader, as her year ending coincided with their trip. Kelly had become my best friend here in Nica and someone I imagine to be a life-long friend. I totally lucked out having her here as both a friend, a far superior Spanish speaker and guide, and endlessly caring and awesome person. I know my experience in my first five months would have been half as enjoyable had it not been for her.

Anyways, the Nicas and Kelly leaving meant summer interns were coming. As luck would have it, I managed to swindle two of my best friends in the whole world to apply for the job. Having them here for six weeks in June and July was even more fun than I possibly could have imagined. They both have an infectious passion for soccer and kids that made them so fun to work with. Additionally, our traveling adventures to Matagalpa in the north and beachy San Juan del Sur were enjoyable and awesome in a totally different way. Selfishly, I felt like I had a little piece of home with me while they were here. Thanks for coming Jake and Leigh! The challenges of our roles together only served to solidify my admiration of you two.

My luck didn't stop there though. On the night before my birthday, what seemed like a routine birthday piñata actually turned out to be an elaborately planned surprise from my boyfriend Tom. Being my sappy self, I immediately burst into tears. I was and still am so touched by the gesture and by the teamwork and effort and sheer sneakiness it took to pull that off. The next few weeks Tom and I had an awesome time. Mostly spent in Granada while I worked, we were able to squeeze in an amazing getaway to the Corn Islands, which, by the way, I am convinced are one of the world's best kept secrets (not to get all Lonely Planet on you). A largely undiscovered Caribbean paradise, Little Corn Island is actually amazing. Anyone who can go, DO IT.

After Tom left after a few weeks, Soccer Without Borders annual High school Camp kicked off and we were busy from about 7am-10pm everyday for a week. 15 highschoolers from all over the U.S. came down, bringing with them a ton of donations and a ton of energy. Playing with them and the girls throughout our week of "Olympics" and watching their worlds expand a bit was really cool to see.

....which essentially brings me to the present day, which is today, Tuesday, August 13.
In the next few weeks we start our regular programming and our "season," which goes from August until December kicks off. I am in the process of solidifying a curriculum for our activities and I am really excited for our league to start. We earned 4th out of 8 teams in the Spring and I think we will only improve this season. Our attendance has been awesome so far and the girls spirits are high and optimistic. Tonight we will be doing an activity on team identity and pride. We might change our team name as a way to start fresh and we will be coming up with a team handshake. I am excited for the next few weeks as we solidify our roster and get into a routine. Soccer-wise, my team improved dramatically even since I have been here and I can't wait to see how much more they improve in the coming season.

I will be in touch SOON. I promise.

Sending hugs,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A bit of catch up

Hello everyone!

I am sorry to have been so out of touch the past month. We had a busy beginning of May before I travelled home to the U.S. for two weeks for my mid-year break. It is totally crazy to think that I am about half way done with my time here. I had an amazing time at home with my family and my friends, and I would be lying if I said it wasn't difficult to leave. Now that I am back in Granada, though, I feel like I have a fresh zeal to achieve many of the goals I had set out earlier and several new ones as well.

I am excited to help create and sustain partnerships for our program, I am excited to continue and expand upon my goalkeeper sessions, in hopes to make them a regular part of programming with full attendance, and I am of course excited to work with my Estrellas. There are many personnel transitions that have just begun to occur within our program, but I will be a consistent presence for my team from now until December. Right before I left I was beginning to really feel a part of their community and lives and I can't wait to build further upon these relationships. I also want to take some of the great things that have begun this first half of the year and continue them through. Some of these things include workshops (tallers) and charlas (chats) which have added a personal and relationship health component to our programming. These more health focused activities are an exciting development in our dynamic programming on a topic that really excites me and also which is really important for our girls.

Another exciting event was a game yesterday against a team from Tipitapa (about an hour away, near Managua). While we lost the game, the event signified several important positive changes. First of all we were able to put together a team of many of the best players from three different FSF teams to make somewhat of an "All-Star Team" that played 11 v. 11, something they had never done before. They were also exposed to female futbólistas from an entirely different part of Nicaragua, another first. Afterwards we had a lunch and an activity with both teams, in which girls got to meet and learn a bit about each other. It was a long day, but an exciting one! In a month we will travel to Tipitapa to play another game there! We are hopeful that this is the beginning of a long and positive relationship with another women's soccer group!

Hasta pronto!

Pregame breakfast
¡Fútbol Sin Fronteras!

Post Game Lunch and Activity

Goalkeeper Warm-up

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Some April Activity Pics

Build the tallest structure competition! 


Winning team! 

Writing suggestions for our conversation box...

Painting our activity space!

First Day of week-long workshop on Nutrition

Nutrition Dinámica

Food Pyramid game

Welcome to the Market! (Day 2 of our Nutrition Week)

Grow your own bean! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

El Poder de la Mujer

Starting two Sundays ago, I began playing on a local men's team, FC Carrilera. Two of my co-Team Leaders, Techo (to my right in the above picture) and Cesar (to my left) invited me to come play on their team. I was flattered that they jumped through so many loopholes to get me on their team. I am the only girl in the league.

I played in my first game with them this past Sunday. Techo invited some of our players to come watch and one of my players did and walked with us to the field. "You are playing with the boys?!" she asked wide-eyed. When we arrived, I was called to and heckled by several spectators..."You are going to be the goalie?!" one man asked with a mocking smile. 

I can't say I played my best game (final score of the game 2-2) or that I wasn't I little taken aback by how much faster many of the guys were than I am. The whistles and cat calls and shouts in my direction were also not lost on me. Playing in a very competitive game was exciting, but being what I presumed to be the first woman, Nica or otherwise, to step foot in this league, felt special, despite the crowd (or maybe especially considering the attention from the crowd.) My thoughts were confirmed as my player watched intently from the sideline from start to finish, waiting with high fives at each break. 

Am I a pioneer woman playing in a men's league or am I just a random girl who happens to play goalie when they needed one? I am not sure if my presence on the team will have any sort of lasting impact, but I thought a lot about how me playing on this team relates to our organization and our mission, particularly given the presence of my player at the game. We endeavor to empower girls in all facets of their lives. Yet we separate them from their male peers. And often for good reason. An organization for only girls gives them a space that is just their own and the opportunity to succeed in a male-dominated society. But the reality as it stands right now is that it is still a male-dominated society and of course it is a society, like most where males and females coexist, unlike the environment of SWB programming

What is coolest though is when females are taken out of the pristine SWB safe space and put in a space with men and they succeed in an even bigger way. When a girl like me is able to play and keep up with a boys soccer team, that says something to my players and to girls at large, but also to all the guys.  Likewise, when my Estrella team beats a boys team, as they did this past Friday, they are making a statement, not just to themselves, but to the boys they beat. 

This statement of "We can and we will" has been made by women the world over many times, but ought to be made many, many more times. Because women's empowerment is not a women's issue, it's an everybody's issue. And the way this world will progress is by tapping into the power of women. 

I hope my girls winning last Friday was one of many such statements in their lives. I hope in some way they take a self-belief with them, beyond the field... to the classroom, to their relationships, and to their jobs.... And I believe they can and they will. I know they face and will face so many obstacles in their lives, but I am optimistic that, particularly as our program develops, we can help give them some tools to surmount them.