Deportes para la Vida (sports for life) is an HIV/AIDS prevention education and youth leadership program in the Dominican Republic (DR) using sport, game-based activities, and peer mentoring to engage youth in the creation and practice of healthy life choices. Originally developed as Fútbol para la Vida as a joint project between the community of Batey Libertad, the University of Vermont, and Grassroot Soccer, Deportes para la Vida (DPV) is now a national program run by the DREAM Project based in Cabarete.

DPV is a member of the international Grassroot Soccer network and provides bilingual Spanish/Haitian Kreyol camps and courses; training of trainers workshops for community-based peer educators, local non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, and public school and health programs; and support for youth camps, soccer tournaments, and other outreach opportunities. Original programs targeted at-risk youth populations in Haitian migrant communities, where a lack of investment in health care and education has contributed to some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the Caribbean and Latin America, and where the Haitian love and pride for soccer has been leveraged among youth and their families.

OBJECTIVES

  1. To educate youth in batey and other marginalized communities in the Dominican Republic about HIV/AIDS prevention, transmission, and compassion for its victims.
  2. To develop, in youth, healthy behaviors related to the prevention of HIV/AIDS and to develop the ability of graduates to educate others in the community.
  3. To educate and engage local role models in delivering effective HIV prevention messages to youth.
  4. To build and support a network of NGOs in the Dominican Republic and Haiti involved with HIV/AIDS prevention education and patient advocacy.
  5. To support the development of football teams in batey communities as a vehicle for health education and community empowerment.
  6. To develop a replicable model for soccer-related HIV/AIDS prevention that could be expanded into Haiti initially, and through other organizations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

PROGRAMS

Core programs target at-risk youth in Dominican Republic communities, mainly Haitian migrant communities, where a lack of investment in health care and education has contributed to some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the Caribbean and Latin America. The nationalities of our target group include Haitian-born living in the Dominican Republic, Dominican-born with Haitian parents, and Dominican. However, many children in FPV programs are without formal citizenship in either country.

The program is targeted to females and males in three age groups. The largest is 10 to 14 year olds, an age in the preliminary stages of sexual activity where prevention strategies can have the greatest impact on reducing infection rates. Fútbol para la Vida programs are also conducted with 15 to 19 year olds with the same core messages of prevention strategies, compassion for AIDS victims, and youth leadership. FPV peer educators are then drawn from community role models who are identified in the 15 to 25 year old age bracket, at times with younger individuals participating as apprentices.

HISTORY

Fútbol para la Vida developed from a 2005 pilot project between the community of Batey Libertad, the University of Vermont, and Grassroot Soccer. Demonstration of the GRS curriculum, identification of local role models, and subsequent training of peer educators was leveraged from a collaboration dating to 2002 between Vermont and Batey student athletes using soccer as a platform to develop youth leaders, mobilize community assets, and address racial tensions between Dominicans and Haitians. Batey Libertad remains the focal point of FPV activities in the Valverde province (one of the DR’s prominent agricultural regions), and is home to program management, trainings, and special events at the FPV training center constructed in 2006.

A second core program was developed in the province of Puerto Plata in early 2007 to focus on sugar cane bateyes and migrant communities that have developed around the tourism industry of the north coast. Here the Haitian barrio of Saman, Batey Caraballo, and 3 other bateyes have been apart of a baseline study of HIV/AIDS knowledge and attitudes amongst youth, conducted through pre- and post-program interviews with participants and their families.

LEARN MORE

Find out more from the FPV trainers themselves about the program, their favorite activities, and ideas for the future of FPV.

Or, watch a segment highlighting Fútbol para la Vida programs at Batey Libertad from the 2009 documentary about bateyes called “Cane & Able: Hope for Hispaniola” by Fleischer Films:

And the original 2005 pilot project with Grassroot Soccer was featured on the National Public Radio show Only a Game.  Have a listen at:
http://www.onlyagame.org/2005/11/show-rundown-for-11122005

There are also dozens of stories about Fútbol para la Vida activities, fundraisers, and extensions to other countries in the Caribbean and Central America on the blog of Fundación de Libertad.  Visit the home page at http://www.bateylibertad.org, or follow this short-cut to FPV blogs.

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