Tag Archives: Sports

ACJU launches new faith community for youth

Exciting things were happening in the ACJU Deportivo project last month! The project has impacted these youth to such a degree that several responded to an invitation to create their own small faith community in collaboration with the Comunidad Mosaico project. Staff expected to launch the group with 5 to 6 key youth leaders, but 11 ACJU participants showed up to the first meeting. In addition to creating a space where youth can re-think and rebuild their relationship with the Lord, ACJU staff will also use this time to work on developing them as leaders who will have a positive impact on other youth, their families, and the community at large.

This fledgling faith community met for the first time on October 25, and will continue to meet every other Saturday for the time being. The 11 youth who attended all committed to continue their attendance, and the idea is that over time more ACJU Deportivo participants will join in.

One of the primary topics of discussion was the importance of youth leadership. The youth talked about how important it is to change your way of thinking and not give in to peer pressure. They also discussed how important it is to follow your dreams, even if people put you down or criticize you, so that you can have a fuller, more dignified life. Some of the youth shared their dreams, along with some of the obstacles they are facing.

bible study 2One gratifying moment occurred when some of the youth expressed their desire to reproduce some of what ACJU Deportivo is doing with the project, working with youth and forming soccer schools, so that other youth from slum communities don’t fall into using drugs, alcohol and violence and are motivated to continue their education. One young man of 18 said, “I dream about being a professional soccer player. However, if that doesn’t happen for one reason or another, my other dream is to work with youth and create a soccer school like what you are doing. I want to help so that less youth get caught up in drugs.”

Another youth, 20 years old, said “I really like soccer, and I don’t know because of my age if I could think about playing professionally, but I know I want to coach youth, help them and create a project like the one you are doing here.”

At ConeXión Mosaico, we look at the lives of our participants from a holistic perspective. We do not just seek to share the Good News of spiritual liberation, while neglecting the very real issues impacting urban slum dweller’s lives. By creating youth leaders who are motivated to serve others and make positive changes in their community, we believe that people can live more dignified, abundant lives on earth here and now.

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ACJU Deportivo youth make new choices on and off the field

ACJU Deportivo has been working with youth in Chimalhuacán as they attend practices at our soccer school and play against other teams. Not only have their technical skills improved, but they have gained more confidence and tactical abilities as a team. Even more importantly, these youth have shown an increased attitude of respect and teamwork towards each other. They have begun to watch their language and control their impulses more during the games. The one-on-one mentoring process has given the youth greater confidence in the team and in their own abilities, which has allowed them to compete against stronger teams more enthusiastically and without feeling so intimidated.

One of the youth who has been receiving one-on-one mentoring is Rolando, a young leader who has shown a desire to serve others. Thanks to his participation on the team, the friendships he has developed and the introspection he has gained through mentoring, Roland has become excited about the idea of going back to high school. He dropped out of school partially due to economic concerns, but also in large part because he had become involved in circles where there was a lot of drugs and alcohol. Now Rolando wants to work for a few months over the summer in order to save up enough money to be able to go back to school in the fall.

Sports help one young man deal with stress and uncertainty

Pedro, a young man of 14, is a dramatic example of the impact sports participation can have on slum youth. Pedro suffers from a vascular deformity which results in his having dangerously sluggish blood flow. This potentially fatal illness has severely affected his academic performance, since he has to be hospitalized each month for yet another surgery. However, the psychological effects have been even more devastating. His doctors have told him frankly that he could die at any time, or he could live out a normal lifespan. Lacking an outlet to deal with the fear and uncertainty of his condition, and feeling little hope for the future, Pedro was violent and uncontrollable with everyone around him.

Shortly after getting expelled from school, Pedro became involved in ACJU Deportivo. In playing soccer, Pedro discovered the discipline and boundaries he needed as well as an outlet to relieve his stress. Within a short time, not only did his grades improve, but so did his behavioral issues. In fact, his conduct and attitude have improved so significantly that the principal at his new school cannot imagine how he could have gotten expelled before coming to them. Both Pedro and his parents have expressed their profound gratitude to ACJU for the support their family has received from the project.

Participant youth show marked improvements in goal-setting and community involvement

The ACJU Project, “Youth as Agents of Change,” was developed to address the multiple challenges facing youth growing up in urban slums. After working with project Facilitators and receiving mentoring, leadership and life-skills training, spiritual formation and values education, 55% of the youth we worked with in 2013 developed concrete life goals, as opposed to only 20% of community youth in general.  ACJU also works with youth to envision improved community conditions and then helps them to make those conditions a reality by putting community improvement projects into action.  At the end of 2013, 20% of project participants reported being involved in their community, up from 0% at the beginning of the year.

The ACJU project reaches out to youth in a variety of contexts in order to reach the widest possible number of youth. For example, using sports as a strategy to spur the healthy development of youth, ACJU Deportivo, our recreation and sports initiative, directly impacted a total of 626 youth in 2013. We achieved this though our own soccer school, a summer sports camp, and our partnership with the Lagunilla Sports League.

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