Arsenal in the Community is working with the global movement for street children, Street Child World Cup and global charity partner, Save the Children, to prepare a team of young teenage girls from Islington for a trip of a lifetime to Brazil to participate in the organisation’s 10-day festival of football in Rio de Janeiro this month.
This is the second time Street Child World Cup will unite street children from across five continents to play football and take part in a unique international conference ahead of the FIFA World Cup this summer. Up to 250 children from 19 countries will take part in tournaments for both girls and boys.
Nine local teenage girls, who have had experience of homelessness or who have had to leave their homes as children, were selected by Islington Council's Independent Futures initiative to represent Team England at the event and will play against eight other teams of street-connected girls from countries including Brazil, The Philippines and South Africa. Their first match will kick-off this Sunday, March 30 against Team Mozambique.
Arsenal in the Community coordinated weekly football coaching sessions with the group to prepare them for this event which is more than simply a football tournament.
"We want to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around children in care"
The 10-day event is far more than just a game. Alongside the football, the children will participate in a festival of arts and the only global street child conference of its kind, which will culminate in the “Rio Rights declaration”. This declaration will include number of country-speci?c asks, ensuring that the Street Child World Cup continues to be used as a platform for change once the children have returned to their own countries.
Jack Ferguson from Arsenal in the Community who has been coaching the girls since October said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the group to represent their country – not just by playing football, but by speaking out for vulnerable young people across the globe and challenge negative perceptions.
The Club’s work through The Arsenal Foundation and through Arsenal in the Community is all about transforming lives and making a difference. Giving young people a chance and a voice to do something positive. This project with Street Child World Cup embodies this.”
Together with The Arsenal Foundation’s international charity partner, Save the Children, Street Child World Cup is also calling on governments, businesses and the wider community to invest in front line responses, legislate and implement policies that protect street children and listen to street children so they are no longer blamed, ignored or victimised.
Though the social phenomenon of street children is far less widespread in England than many other countries across the world, 75,000 young people across the UK are in contact with homeless organisations each year.
Sam, Captain of Team England said: “We want to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around children in care, the idea that we can’t do anything. Who else gets the opportunity to go to Brazil and take part in this? This is such a massive opportunity for us.
“Taking part and meeting kids from all over the world who have been living on the streets will really help us to appreciate what we have got. We don’t all live with our parents but we do live in houses with people who care about us.”
Team-mate Camille added: “I have heard so much about Brazil and I can’t wait to go. It will be great to meet all the other kids who have been through similar things to us.”
Street Child World Cup Chief Executive John Wroe added: “We’re delighted Team England are on the Road to Rio 2014. The issue of children forced to live on the streets is a global issue and Team England will provide a shining example of how with the right safety net of support; the most vulnerable children can get their lives back on track. No child should have to Iive on the streets.”
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