We started our Friday (a littler earlier than usual) by heading over to the main base of the foundation "Ganamos Todos", which works to bring sports and physical education to special-needs children in elementary through high school. We travelled to three different schools in the area so we could help out during their recess. The first school we visited was for the blind and visually impaired. The kids dove right in the various sport activities offered the foundation, such as soccer tennis and basketball. It was inspiring to see the creativity and perseverance in their play. They didn't let their disability interfere with having fun. The second school we went to was for kids with physical disabilities. Many were in wheel chairs, which presented a wholly different challenge for athletic engagement. The kids were surprisingly adept at maneuvering around their physical issues and likewise were very excited to participate in the various sports. The last school we went to was for kids with cognitive disabilities. The diversity in age and severity of disorder was greater than in either of the previous schools. This school aims to prepare students for the real world by teaching skills that are applicable to certain jobs and everyday life. Although the time with each school was limited to the short recess period, the shared enthusiasm and determination of the students we met will continue to inspire us in immeasurable ways.
This morning, after an unexpected long bus drive, we arrived in the town of Santa Maria, an hour and a half from Santiago. Once steeping off the bus at the local K through 8 school, we were greeted by the town's mayor who led us to their indoor soccer courts. We were met by little boys and girls eager to practice the little English they knew with us. They had been preparing for our visit, teaching a unit on inclusion and working to highlight the global development of women's status. We led the kids in soccer drills for a short time and then scrimmaged 5v5 with their girls soccer team. Many of the kids had never met anyone from the United States and were overjoyed to see us. It was a great opportunity for us to not only take on leadership roles running drills for these kids, but also for us to realize the excitement and hope we can bring to people just by what we do every day. Unlike the US, most Latin American countries haven't developed young girls soccer and many girls find it difficult to find somewhere to play, despite their passion for the game. Great programs are in the works to increase girl participation in soccer and offer them equal opportunity, but that still lies far on the horizon for many. By just being there with these kids and talking to them about our soccer experience, we are able to inspire them and give them hope for the future. We are also inspired by these children, who look up to us, to appreciate the opportunities we were given and to play not only to win but for the love of the game, something shared across the world.
Today we started our day playing a pickup game of soccer with members of the Deportelibre foundation that we worked with yesterday. Afterwards, we had the chance to climb the lower sections of the structure we painted the day before. While we were climbing, some of us were interviewed for a promo video they were making that included our experience with them. When we were finished, we had a snack and exchanged our lions emblem for one of their foundations t shirts.
We landed safely in Santiago around 9am this morning. We had a little bit of trouble filling out the immigration/customs form at first, (some of us couldn't figure if we were children or if we were carrying children in our baggage), but it all turned out okay.