Hato Viejo is a rural community of about 500 people located right next to the Haitian-Dominican border. It is in the central part of the country and is surrounded by mountain ranges, thus cutting it off from direct access to the coast. Despite the fact that the region has the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country, little to no education about the disease is present in the schools.
Traditional gender roles are strong in the community, and thus many girls are expected to stay at home most of the time unless they are at school. There are few opportunities for young girls to interact with their peers. Moreover, recreational opportunities for both boys and girls are scarce. Young men often turn to gambling and drinking, likely because there is little to do for entertainment in the town.
This project will encourage healthy lifestyles by supporting the community’s underdeveloped girls’ volleyball team and boys’ soccer team. Both teams will be provided with the equipment they need in order to function sustainably. The sports program will help build self-esteem and skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership, as well as empower young women to engage in organized sports. Practices will also be used as platforms for discussion through "Me Toca a Mi" (It's Up to Me) sessions, which will focus on HIV/AIDS prevention.
Equipment has been purchased and the community now has volleyballs and soccer balls. The recreational field was cleaned and the posts were restructured, transforming the old lot into a safe and usable environment. Youth participate in daily informal sports practices, and have more formal practices twice a week. With the new equipment, several groups of young people are able to play at the same time, allowing all age groups to get involved. For example, the older youth help organize practices and games for the younger youth. In a given afternoon, you can find over thirty boys and girls playing, with multiple spectators cheering them on. In addition to the sports field, HIV/AIDS discussions are being held at the local school to teach students about the disease and prevention.
"The youth sports program provides opportunities for the young men and women of this community to involve themselves in activities that are healthy and strengthen self-esteem. With the new equipment that has been provided, the program is now even stronger and regular participation can be assured." - Claudio, Project Leader
"We play volleyball almost every day; I love playing. I would play everyday if I could." - Crismeli, Project Participant
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