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SALT Academy adds dash of hope to poverty

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Two boys practise dribbling skills around cones during the SALT Academy’s outreach project at Naga Peace Park in Battambang. Photograph: supplied

Battambang-based Sports and Leadership Training (SALT) Academy launched its pilot outreach project on Tuesday morning, which explores ways to better integrate street kids and the poorest children in the local area into it’s youth football and life skills programmes.

The project has been funded by Dream Asia, a movement that uses the power of football for positive social change, and is sanctioned by the Asian Football Confederation. SALT Academy was selected to receive support this year due to its organisational capacity and excellent proposal.

The Dream Asia movement was established in 2009 to help bring together, support, advise and strengthen organisations working towards sustainable social development in health promotion, peace building, children’s rights and education, social integration, poverty and the environment.

The event on Tuesday started early, with kids arriving by truck and tuk tuk from the squatters neighborhood around Battambang train station, the rubbish dump near Andong Cheng, and from five existing organisational partners of SALT – Komar Rikreay, CCT, CFI, KCD, and CAD.

The field was centrally located at Naga Peace Park in Battambang, which encouraged children to drop by and join the festivities and spread the word about future events open to individuals who often collect garbage or work on the streets. A total of nearly 120 kids ended up participating.

Mixed teams of boys and girls completed various skills stations focusing on dribbling, passing, team play, as well as 5-on-5 games. An additional station provided kids a chance to rest and receive a life skill lesson on health benefits of football with anti-drug messages. Stations were manned by teams of male and female coaches from SALT’s experienced coaching staff.

During a opening ceremony, SALT Academy director Sam Schweingruber welcomed all the players “into the SALT football family,” as many were taking to the field for the first time in an organized event. The Swiss native also reminded them that “football is the school of life,” where lessons are both fun and important.

As a Dream Asia beneficiary, SALT Academy will continue cooperation with local NGO Komar Rikreay to conduct a three-month project with many of the same children.

Weekly fun and technical training sessions, both at the organization and in the target communities, will seek to engage children usually left out of such activities and look for ways to form new teams in the local youth leagues or support their inclusion in existing community groups.

The full project will also include lessons on health, fair play, and other life skill topics. At its conclusion, SALT Academy will evaluate lessons learned and propose steps for improved integration in next year’s football league.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shannon Hiller and Dan Riley at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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