CHANGING THE GAME

How Aspiras is creating an education program through soccer!

MPiP has been working with Aspiras Foundation –  an NGO that works to support and empower youth from low-income communities in Dominican Republic, through soccer clubs. What started as a clothing drive by the founder, then a student of Western Michigan University, to his hometown soccer club in Santo Domingo has now expanded into a foundation that operates in 12 provinces, managing over 18 soccer clubs with a goal to break the intergenerational poverty cycle in poor communities through their core values embedded in soccer.

Soccer began to gain popularity first among the elite and upper-class community in Dominican Republic, recounts Federico, founder of Aspiras Foundation. Unlike the baseball fever in the country, soccer initially only grew horizontally among the affluent. Meanwhile, baseball was transforming the country and generating a revenue of nearly 1 billion dollars a year. The sport has made over four generations of families exponentially wealthy and respectable.

The allure of baseball conceals the reality of talent factories exploiting children, keeping them out of school and blinding them with transient riches. Discussing these issues, Federico was determined to define soccer as the means to a better life for children from disadvantaged communities. Aspiras is modelled around developing a child holistically through five core values: Responsibility, Leadership, Discipline, Teamwork, and Perseverance. While baseball continues to wear down the athletes physically, Aspirias aims to toughen up their athletes mentally to take on any adversity in life.

The foundation also works with coaches and parents, alongside their children. For some of the players, coaches are the only father figure in their lives. In recognizing this, Aspiras has built a strong sport psychology curriculum that they hope to scale up. In addition to coaches, they want to expand their outreach to the parents as well.  Through this initiative, Aspiras’s goal is to challenge the status quo on soccer and create a realistic path by educating their stakeholders through their newly designed sports psychology manual.

Eduardo, the co-founder of the NGO, discussed Aspiras’s plan to introduce mobile health clinics and services as a method to promote health awareness and basic medical care to their children. Our team inquired about the situation of female athletes, whose drop-out rates are higher in number, and suggested several initiatives surrounding female health care in order to raise awareness and retain their participation. Furthermore, due to the high incidence of female domestic violence in Dominican Republic, the NGO presented their plan to conduct several awareness campaigns throughout the year.

Aspiras has garnered local support and formed viable partnerships in the country to boost education and health outcomes through soccer. This year, the NGO plans to publish an impact portfolio to measure their impact over the three years and evaluate the effectiveness of their programs. This is where our MPiP coordinators will play a crucial role in carrying out a Theory of Change. Our team will work towards identifying the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, designing targeted surveys and training enumerators to carry out data collection. Towards the end of our academic year, MPiP will present the findings, and make targeted recommendations. 

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