It’s been a rough week. My son is having a hard time with self-esteem and handling stress. He is lashing out and struggling and as his mother, I feel my heart breaking piece by piece.
But today is soccer day. He was up, dressed and ready to get inspired by his coach and teammates. He runs. He plays. He tells the kid who missed the pass that it’s ok. Living in such a privileged community does not fix the growing pains that kids go through, but having abundant resources to help makes everything easier. I have seen first-hand how sport and guidance help children thrive.
I am honoured to be part of a new program with Right To Play called Level The Field. The organization operates to create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play to help create a level field and equal opportunities for children everywhere. Teamwork, cooperation and respect are explored in fun ways and community leaders act as coaches to change behaviours. Right To Play’s innovative methodology is grounded in a deep understanding of social learning theory and child development needs. Through sport and activities adapted from local traditional games, mental, physical and psycho-social well-being of the children improve. (And I have a hunch that the parents feel pretty good as they watch their children play and laugh.)
Typically my writing is laced with wit and fluff. But as I write today, tears are close. I read about the children in Liberia and I think about my son’s behavior. What do mothers feel when their children get sick because they haven’t learned that washing hands can prevent disease? If my heart is breaking from watching my son suffer, what would it be like for parents living in disadvantaged areas of the world? We all grow up with our own context and it is difficult to compare hardships, but I can’t help wanting to do everything in my power to help those moms smile as they watch their children thrive and grow.
Right To Play has given me the gift and opportunity to be able to help them raise awareness about the work they do every day, all over the world.. I have been partnered with Kaylyn Kyle, Vancouver Whitecaps soccer goddess and Olympic medalist. Together, we promote how we can help level the field for children through play with a focus on how play can positively impact the health of those in Liberia.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest incidences of malnutrition, infectious disease and other global health concerns. 85% of people live below the world poverty line*. A massive civil war between 1989-2003 not only modeled violent combat for the children, but it created a lack of trust in people from other communities. After Right To Play started working with local communities in Liberia in 2008, there are more organized sports and activities and people from various communities play together. Children are less likely to reach for weapons and fists to settle conflicts. And 183 local leaders and supervisors have been trained as positive role models. People with disabilities are now included in play, and girls and boys are now playing together more often, in a country with a high incidence of sexual violence and a history of gender inequality.
Level The Field video
I’m embarrassed. Not only did I not know about the work done by Right To Play, but I didn’t have a handle on how bad things are in disadvantaged countries around the world. Did you know that 26,000 children under the age of 5 die every day? Infectious diseases such as HIV, measles and diarrheal disease are largely preventable. I can’t stop shaking at the thought of the mothers watching their toddlers die. We need to help. By voting for our program, or the program you feel most passionately about on Facebook, you can help us raise awareness about Right To Play’s work and also enter for a chance to accompany the team with the most votes on a visit to see a Right To Play program in-action. We need to lessen the number of broken hearts in this world.