CHEERing has worked in Greek refugee camps since 2018. Much of our work has focused on improving family health through promoting breastfeeding and nutrition. But what the "Beautiful Girls" [see end] of Malakasa camp want is soccer. So, we want to help. Sport, physical and mental health, and female empowerment are intricately linked. And who wants to sit through health classes? Definitely not teenage girls.
Malakasa camp (40 minutes north of Athens) already has boys' and men's football teams, but no football program for girls. Working directly with community leaders living in the camp, CHEERing began girls' soccer training in 2021. By great good luck, our long term volunteer is an Irish national league, former women's footballer with a coaching license. She works with our female Afghani resident coordinator and her husband, (an ex pro footballer), who runs the boys' teams in the camp.
The response has been overwhelming. The girls are practicing daily on an unshaded concrete court, many in sandals and flip flops. Our coordinators have girls knocking on their container [home] door at all hours, asking when the next coaching session will be.
We are so moved by the response that CHEERing's leaders started to fund the project out of pocket. We bought balls and cones. But the girls need shoes - not sandals, dads' sneakers, or flip flops - and basic safety equipment (knee/shin pads).
While the community leaders have tremendous dedication, their ability to obtain outside funding is impossible, as refugee camp residents. CHEERing is applying to launch their dream. This will be the 1st step towards building a bigger program, which we know can happen because of the very successful boys' teams. And while we love our Awesome program name - STARS (Soccer Teams and Refugee Solidarity) - when we asked our players for a name, they picked "Beautiful Girls".
Please help us to support the strong, Beautiful Girls of Malakasa refugee camp reach their footballing goals!
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (August 2021)