Find out more about one of streetfootballworld’s newest network members, GOALS Haiti, in the first ever streetfootballworld 7-a-side interview: seven questions and seven answers to get to know the network members.
GOALS Haiti targets young people living in communities with limited public services or educational opportunities, and that continue to be challenged by environmental disasters. The non-profit organisation was founded in 2010 in Léogane, and works under a three-tier model that involves football activities, community service programmes, and educational seminars.
GOALS Haiti is still relatively new to streetfootballworld, having joined as a network member in July 2012. Founder and Director Kona Shen recently shared some personal insight into how the organisation works.
1. What is the proudest achievement of GOALS Haiti?
GOALS has had a busy couple of years and we're thrilled to report that we reach over 600 kids every month. I think our biggest achievement is that we create an intensive, leadership-oriented approach that really empowers young people, their families, and our great staff on a community level. GOALS is all about driving long-term change from the ground up.
2. Who or what inspires you in your daily work?
The kids and families that I meet in really rural parts of Haiti are remarkable. Their passion for improving their communities always motivates me to see what we can do better. I'm personally inspired by organisations like Grassroot Soccer that have been able to create incredibly effective programs that are innovative, scalable, and fun for kids. I love that football has the ability to bring together different people for a common cause.
3. Why is football the perfect tool for creating social change in your community?
Football is special in that everyone understands it immediately. To tackle issues like leadership, gender equality and community development, it's enormously helpful to use sport as the core framework for your programmes. Everyone will come together for football, and this is the perfect launching point for projects that are focused on social change. The same values that are important on the field – hard work, teamwork, heart – carry over into the rest of our lives.
4. What is the biggest lesson that GOALS Haiti has learned since it started?
We've learned a lot about strategic growth and programme design, and about monitoring and evaluation practices. We're not shy about looking to older organisations for advice and guidance.
5. What is the best part of being a participant in GOALS Haiti?
Right off the bat, GOALS provides kids with their first ever experience of being on a 'real' team, with new equipment, daily practices, and professional coaches. The kids have so much pride when they wear their uniforms, and seeing them come together as a team is wonderful. More gradually, I think one of the best parts of being part of GOALS is that you become more confident, and that your community starts viewing you as a leader for the first time.
6. Please share a favourite story about a participant.
Cassandra is a young woman from Destra, a remote fishing village. She was one of our first participants and was elected class president in our first year of the Dream Team Scholarship programme. Cassandra was shy at first, but her self-esteem grew on the field and she is now a community leader and a GOALS-trained peer educator. She has become increasingly confident and ambitious, and it's been remarkable seeing her strengths emerge each year in our programmes.
7. What is something that we might not know about GOALS Haiti?
Not everyone understands how unique our approach is in Haiti. We're really committed to long-term development, hiring local leaders, and community-driven projects. We want to see generations of children grow up with this programme.