Over 120 children and young leaders from La Canela embarked on an unforgettable experience this summer, as they took part in the FIFA Foundation Campus, when it visited Dominican Republic. In partnership with the Dominican Republic Football Federation (FEDOFUTBOL), FIFA Foundation facilitated a week which offered plenty of football, health checks, social sessions and fun entertainment activities for the residents of La Canela, an underprivileged community in Santiago de los Caballeros.
Hosted at CF Cibao, the Campus welcomed over 100 girls and boys from 11-13 years and ten young leaders aged 16-26, to engage in activities on and off the pitch, combining the benefits of physical activity through high-level football training sessions, promoting awareness across a diverse range of social topics. Belonging all to the same community, and joining together and united, the Campus contributed to further strengthening the networks of trusting relationships amongst participants and building role models.
The young participants enjoyed daily training sessions in mixed groups led by male and female professional coaches, technical experts and the young leaders. They also had the unique opportunity of learning first-hand from a FIFA World Cup winner, FIFA Foundation CEO, Youri Djorkaeff. The young leaders were encouraged into coaching roles themselves, affording them the necessary skills and equipment to continue coaching in La Canela, promoting the sustainable legacy of the Campus. The activities on the pitch culminated with a closing festival – with all the ceremony of a professional event.
Off the pitch, the participants benefitted from health checks and sessions on healthy diet and lifestyles, performed by the Ministry of Public Health. They also learnt about their own rights in society, through the charity Save the Children, and picked up some useful tips in gardening with the Ministry of Agriculture, by planting a vegetable patch. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) demonstrated equality and equity through games, and the visit to the Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes gave an immersive, interactive session on culture and art.
“Throughout the week, youngsters have had access to a safe platform, a safe place where they’ve been able to express themselves,” explained FIFA Foundation CEO, Youri Djorkaeff. “The Foundation is part of a modern society in which FIFA has a role to play. We saw during the COVID-19 pandemic that the world was put on pause. We had to change how we think about society and how we can make things change and evolve. But football stayed strong and proved that it was a big family. The Foundation has done its best to help the most impoverished.”
Rubén García, FEDOFUTBOL President, said it had been a highly valuable experience for all involved. “It has really been significant for the Dominican Republic, especially for the community of La Canela,” García said. “It has actually had a wonderful impact; it has brought FIFA to the heart of the children. It has really brought FIFA into a social dimension which was not that known in the Dominican Republic. But today, thanks to the FIFA Foundation Campus project, that environment has been made known.”
Samuel Alberto Bueno Díaz is one of the young leaders. “The FIFA Foundation has meant a lot to the community of La Canela because it has helped to keep our children busy by training and doing what they enjoy; being happy,” he said, while football coach, Lisandro de la Cruz, shared a tender moment. “I almost shed a tear just a moment ago because a kid came to me crying and hugged me,” De la Cruz said. “He said ‘thank you so much’ because I’d helped him a lot this week.”
The FIFA Foundation’s goal is to deliver social change through football and to inspire humanity toward a healthier, fairer and more inclusive society. This dovetails with the FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s Vision 2020-2023, which pledges to make football work for society. This was put into practice during the Campus’ holistic approach to supporting local children and young people in giving them a chance to dream and fulfil their potential.