STA. CRUZ, Davao del Sur – For Fundacion MAPFRE, football isn’t simply a game; But it is an instrument of transformation for the street kids and marginalized sector in this province.
Javier Warleta, president and CEO of MAPFRE Insular Insurance Corporation, said football is just an instrument to attract out of school youth and some street kids to go back to school through the Social Sports School.
“Football is just a hook. Football is just something that attracts the community to enroll in the program that will help them,” said Javier Warleta, president of MAPFRE Insular Insurance Corporation, who came to deliver at least 41 footballs sent by Fundacion Real Madrid.
But there are a lot of programs, which are the most important, under the project that helps the youth and their families, Warleta added.
With the support from Fundacion MAPFRE and in collaboration of football giant Fundacion Real Madrid, Ang Nagkahiusang Kabatan-onan Alang sa Kalamboan (ANAKK) Sta.Cruz, is running the Social Sports School, which provides alternative learning systems, formal education and livelihood skills.
Aside from the out of school youth, the Social Sports School also caters its services to the poor and marginalized sectors in towns of Hagonoy, Padada and Digos City, said ANAKK’s executive director Pablo Tanuan.
Tanuan said they also provide assistance to those who are taking formal education in elementary and high school levels.
Among those who benefited the non-formal schooling are Bonifacio Fuentes and Junrey Midagat, both used to be part of a dreaded gang in Digos City.
Together, they used to go out along with dozens of other teenagers lurking in the dark streets of city. A street gang called “Gods Against War” bonded them together and they often get involved in gang wars.
Fuentes and Midagat are among the 300 kids and youth who are part of the Social Sports Program that started three years ago.
“The influence of our barkada led us to join the gang. It’s so hard to avoid trouble or riots because the other side, sometimes, are the ones looking for trouble,” admitted Fuentes who is now 20 years old.
Tanuan said that Fuentes and his squad started showing their interest sometime in 2007 by playing football with some of the teens who are under the program.
The gang members were coming to Sta. Cruz for tune-up games, he said.
“But since they were still active in their gang, their presence in the pitch and in our gathering was on and off as well. Nobody handled them as a team,” Tanuan recounted.
But late last year, he said, they were formally absorbed in the program and the former gang members are taking up non-formal education in under the Alternative Learning School (ALS) of the Department of Education.
“The kids here don’t just play football, they should either attend formal or non-formal schooling. These two incorporated together,” he pointed out.
By playing football, Tanuan added, the kids are diverting their ‘energies’ into the game.
As a game, football is also educational because we also incorporate values formation, he said, adding that coaches also teach them hygiene, health and other literacy components during rests.
“To be an athlete just secondary. But the primary aim is to be a responsible citizen through our holistic programs. This is the reason why we gave more focus on former gang members, ” Tanuan explained.
Tanuan said a Spanish friend of his introduced him to Fundacion Real Madrid, the Spanish-based foundation of the well-acclaimed football team, Real Madrid, which provides the soccer training program for the local coaches and student beneficiaries of the program. With support and funding provided by Fundacion MAPFRE, a Spanish non-profit institution that contributes to society wolrd-wide, Anakk started to expand in Digos City, Hagonoy and Padada in Davao del Sur by last year.
“The are some volunteers who are helping us run our school. We have several football coaches whom we only pay on a per session basis since we cannot afford to pay them regularly,” Tanuan said.
“In the past, we were on the streets. Now we are on the pitches teaching the children the game as well as sharing our lessons in the past,” Fuentes said.
For Midagat, to be part of the Social Sports School gave him an opportunity to correct his wrongdoings in the past.
“I realized that I feel safe and secure after leaving the gang,” he said.
Tanuan said they were able to convince some of the rival gangs to be part of the Social Sports School. “As of now, we already have at least 40 former gang members who are now playing football and studying under ALS.”
He added it was very challenging to convince the gang members to give more focus on the program, especially in the urban area.
Recently, a livelihood program was also launched for the out of school youth in Digos.
“If we don’t give more attention to these gang members, they will still go back to the streets. Some were not able to continue the program. But at least, we gave them an opportunity to transform,” Tanuan concluded.