By Ryan Smith, Associate Editor
Here at World Vision, we’ve been keeping track of the FIFA World Cup over the last few weeks. Being an international organization, our staff has allegiances to a number of teams in the tournament, including team USA.
During one lunchtime viewing session, a colleague asked, “Are there any former World Vision sponsored kids playing in the World Cup?” That is a great question. I’m pretty sure the answer is no. But it did get me wondering about how many of the nations competing have World Vision child sponsorship programs.
It turns out that six countries fall into this category: Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, and South Africa. World Vision also works in North Korea, Serbia, South Korea, and the United States. So if you’re looking for someone to root for now that the Americans have been eliminated, this list might be a good place to start.
Watching these matches also reminds me how sports like soccer can play an important role in World Vision’s work. When I travelled to Senegal a couple years ago, I saw an intriguing activity called “Red Card for AIDS.” World Vision organizes soccer clinics and tournaments to bring kids together, have fun, and teach them about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. They use the language of soccer—a red card is given to a player who commits an egregious foul, resulting in automatic ejection from the game—to teach children how to avoid contracting the disease.
Recently, in Albania, World Vision took part in an event called “Go for the Goal: End Child Labor.” The gathering brought together key national and local leaders, media, and, most importantly, 500 children. Altin Lala, a well-known Albanian soccer player, stood with the children as they held up red cards, asking their political leaders to stop child labor.
Perhaps one of these programs will produce a great soccer star, but at the very least, they will play a part in helping children grow up healthy—and that’s a win, from my perspective.