To say soccer is popular in Brazil is more than an understatement. By the time the country hosted the 2014 World Cup, Brazil’s national team had already been the only one to never miss a qualifier. Many employers even give their workers the day off during Brazil’s World Cup matches. On the professional side there are more than 10,000 Brazilians playing on teams all over the globe.
That’s why it makes sense that our grantee partner Instituto Fazer Acontecer, or the “Make It Happen Institute,” uses the game to spur community development in “o País do Futebol,” a Portuguese phrase referring to “the country of football.” Make It Happen organizes training for sports educators and young Brazilians in the metropolitan area of Salvador, Bahia and in the semi-arid region of this eastern Brazilian state.
Sport for development and peace
The organization uses soccer and other sporting activities to reach youth and to educate them both on the field and on the sidelines. When not playing they learn about resisting drug abuse, discrimination, environmental education, citizen roles within society, human rights and employment opportunities. When playing they practice respect, cooperation, partnership and collaboration.
Sport is incredibly valuable for improving social and economic progress. This is why the United Nations recognizes April 6 as International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
Making an impression that lasts
By teaming up with local governments that provide people to help and public courts for activities, Make It Happen ensures the education will continue after it moves to other areas to expand its activities. The ultimate goal of these partnerships is the hope that local government officials will include the organization’s practices in the public education curriculum. In this way the programs continue to benefit the local community after the initial support from Make It Happen.
In the semi-arid region of Bahia, Make It Happen achieved success when 10 municipalities out of 12 continued with the sports project. Eight of those adopted the organization’s practices as public policy. Policy makers embraced the program when they saw significant results in a reduction of youth delinquency, an increase in school performance and a growing culture of peace in violent areas.
New challenges ahead
Following a visit to the coastal town of Conde, Bahia in March, IAF foundation representative for Brazil David Fleischer said local governments recognize how the group’s athletic activities have improved educational performance and have reduced petty crimes like vandalism. “Make It Happen helps them excel at school, teaches them to respect others and follow rules,” Fleischer said. “I watched a mixed match of dodgeball. All were eager to play together. The game was super civilized, and the kids didn’t cheat.”
With our continued grant support last year, Make It Happen is able to move into a more challenging environment. They plan to introduce the sports program to communities in the metro area of Salvador, the largest city in the Northeast Region and the third largest city in the country. Salvador has high levels of violence and crime especially involving young people who will benefit from the organization’s influence.