This girl is smiling because she’s learning to play football. She is one of 5,000 girls and an equal number of boys who have found new opportunities through sports thanks to PACES.
The NGO brings kids aged 7 – 16 from the margins of remote and underprivileged communities to the disciplined, enthusiastic ranks of basketball, football and volleyball teams. PACES coaches are also local youth, who get basic first aid training, leadership skills and—crucially in areas of high unemployment—rewarding jobs.
Founded in 2006 initially for children in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem, PACES now has programs across Palestine and in the refugee camps of Jordan and Lebanon. Each year, teams travel to compete in places they never dreamed they’d see. At international play-offs after the under-14 boys’ and under-16 girls’ teams came in second in 2009 and 2010 respectively, in Norway in 2011 the under-14 boys took first place and the under-16 boys, second.
PACES teams will return to Norway this July, which will no doubt be another eye-opener for children. As one boy put it as he gazed at a Norwegian football field, “this is nothing like the camp; we don’t have to cross checkpoints anymore.”
For more info – PACES’ website