[At work in Bolivia’s toughest areas]

COCHABAMBA – Inter Campus have just returned from a week-long mission to Bolivia, in a trip made memorable by the sheer happiness and enthusiasm of the youngsters we encountered.

A total of ten local coaches took part in the training programme, eight from the Ticti Norte area of Cochabamba – where Inter Campus has been working with the Casari Foundation since 2008 – and two from a brand-new initiative in Sacaba, which was inaugurated during our trip with help from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Town of Sacaba.

All of the instructors listened attentively to the advice of Nerazzurri coaches Gabriele Raspelli and Fabio Perfetti, who set about explaining the Inter Campus methodology. With both theory-based and practical sessions taking place, the local coaches were enthusiastic participants on a course designed to teach them about how to structure a training session, keeping in mind four key areas that affect the kids’ personalities.

There are 320 children currently involved in the Inter Campus Bolivia project: 150 in the disadvantaged Ticti Norte community, 70 children whose parents are locked up in the San Sebastian prison and a further 100 from the new Sacaba site.

The inauguration ceremony of the Sacaba project was a wonderful moment. The centre is situated in the impoverished Entre Rios area, where many children have no means of playing football. Thirty-eight percent of the population live below the poverty line, while violence is extremely common. It means that sport – and in this case football – is a fantastic way of preventing the local youngsters from falling into the clutches of criminal groups.

The town bell rang out at three o’clock sharp to call the inhabitants to the football pitch to welcome the mayor and delegations from the UNDP and Inter Campus and listen to a presentation about the new initiative. The pitch itself had been safely cordoned off to stop the crowds trampling the surface, while a few trees have been planted around the perimeter – it was exciting to think of them offering shade to spectating parents, siblings and friends in a few years’ time.

After several meetings with the coaches and children, the last day of our visit brought with it the wonderful sight of groups of kids playing on the brand-new pitch, their coaches taking a hands-on role in leading the training session. The energy and professionalism was clear to see – further proof that the project is going from strength to strength.

As it turned out, we had saved the best until last. Every Saturday, children whose parents are detained in the San Sebastian prison are able to come to the Casari Foundation to enjoy themselves playing football on a proper pitch. For a few hours at least, they are kids like any other. It was a fitting end to our visit.



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