Sep 9, 2013

The Power of Sports in Salcajá, Quetzaltenango

Afbeelding matigol_large
crédito de foto:Rowan Hordijk

By Rowan Hordijk

This summer my journey and research in Guatemala was the beginning of a new personal journey to illustrate the power of sports. I worked with a group of young disadvantaged children in Salcajá, Quetzaltenango, in the western part of the country called the highlands where many indigenous communities live.

The sports project MatiGol is a small nonprofit in rural Salcajá and serves as a home and playground for boys and girls from two primary schools. Some of them live with their families while others do not; some work and others don’t. For all of them at least one day of their week they would participate in a team sport. Fernando Bautisa, project leader, helps these boys and girls by using the project as a metaphor for the outside world or other social environments they engage in. They learn to work together as a team and to respect another. These are social norms and values he works to instill in them.

In February 2013 researcher Matthijs Wansink and I started our anthropological fieldwork at MatiGol in Salcajá. We were interested in sports as a tool for development so we began by conducting research on the personal development of the children who attended this program. We learned about  the project and the children’s lives. During our three-month stay we helped Fernando to give sports classes at the two schools that participated in MatiGol. One of these school is called the Centro Ecuménico de Integración Pastoral (CEIPA) and the other is Aldea Rudolf Walter school.

MatiGol was clearly a social environment where children could be children served as a healthy place where they could physically and socially interact with their peers under informal supervision. The program also helped to challenge the cultural idea that sports were mainly for boys and men because girls were encouraged actively play sports regardless of gender. Many of the children experienced some kind of personal development during the limited hours they received in this sports program. They formed close relationships with their peers, learned to work to together, improved physical and technical skills, learned to respect one and another and learned how to apply learned social norms in other environments during the sport classes.

More importantly, MatiGol offered them a chance to be a child and to be free of the everyday struggles they faced in their lives. I was impacted by their smiles and laughter as well as, their compelling life history stories; it is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. In the near future I hope MatiGol will find the assistance it needs to be self-sufficient and so it can continue being a haven for generations of children and volunteers to come. 


    Thank you Rowan  for writing this letter! Always we need people like you for helping the project like you did!! If smeone wants come to Xela and help this project and you will have a wonderful time!!!!

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