SALT Academy: Cambodia

AFC One Goal Sports for Development Conference 2014 was in deed great opportunity for me to meet people and organizations around the world who are constantly making effort to create an environment in which sport contributes to equal treatment, better development and peaceful competition. As I have mentioned in my previous blog that in South Asian countries like Nepal sports like football is rarely adolescent girl friendly. But the scenario changed in front of me when I came across SALT Academy in Cambodia.

SALT Academy:

SALT academy was founded in 2006 and based in Cambodia. It started to develop youth football with fifteen team in Battambang, Nothwest Cambodia and have reached to nearly 2000 youths and 1000 young adults across the three provinces of Battambang, Pailin and Poipet. SALT Academy aims to develop young leaders of both gender male and female through a sustainable community-based football league, incorporating life skills lessons, vocational training, and community engagement.

It is said, the streets in Cambodia are difficult to navigate. The reality is everyday life is a struggles as people in Cambodia have to still survive on an average wage of half a US dollar which puts many of them below the absolute poverty.

As a consequence, Cambodia is believed to have one of the highest numbers of orphans and street children in the world. Girls in particular are forced to bear the brunt of these difficult circumstances. The lack of work and parents’ struggles to provide for their families mean that girls have to earn a wage, whether as field laborers, travelling vendors, casual workers or beggars.

 Many families also barter their daughters off to unscrupulous employers in good faith, making young women into easy prey for human traffickers and forcing them straight into a life of slavery and forced prostitution. Shipped across the borders illegally by smugglers, girls end up in the brothels of Thailand and Vietnam. They are moved from one place to another, becoming lost.

Therefore SALT academy believes that “Sport has the power to change the world” as Nelson Mandela said. It does not only speak to young people in a language they understand, it also creates hope where once there was only despair. SALT was founded on these objectives and they are still present in everything they do and plan. Through sports especially football SALT is giving the children of Cambodia the tools to make their future brighter.

SALT is encouraging young girls to participate in football as it creates opportunities for young women to become role models at the local level. The girls develop confidence and leadership abilities on and off the field. Through the Mighty Girls program it aims to prevent individual cases of human trafficking by empowering and supporting exceptional young female players in education and training.

Samuel Schweingruber: Founder and Director, SALT Academy, Cambodia

Sam in the middle

Sam in the middle

Samuel Schweingruber first traveled to Cambodia in 2003 and fell in love with the place and the people. He was involved in different projects around his profession as a teacher and passion for football but it was not until 2006 when the situation was right for the start of his own project- SAT Academy, with the life skills and leadership training surrounding a youth football league. The start of girls’ football and the Mighty Girls’ Program was a breakthrough in many ways as it really tackled social problems. Sam works as a FIFA Grassroots Instructor, Head Coach of Penh Crown and the U16 National Team of Cambodia.

AFC Asia Dream Award:
PPCFC head coach Sam Schweingruber collected the prestigious AFC Asia Dream Award – NGO Category as the director and founder of SALT Academy, this evening in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The awards ceremony was held at the end of a two-day Sports for Development Conference 2014 which was held on the sidelines of the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Sam was also a speaker at the conference. SALT (Sport and Leadership Training) Academy is a developmental charity based in Battambang that brings social change and education through football. It provides recreational activities and holistic development for the youth of Cambodia by teaching life skills education, community building and positive behavior change through community-based football programs.

Among SALT Academy’s initiatives are its Youth Football League, summer school programs, vocational programs and the Mighty Girls which is a program for young women to become role models, develop confidence and leadership ability on and off the field. SALT Academy has developed nearly 2,000 youth and 1,000 young adults across three provinces in Cambodia.

SALT academySam collected the award from AFC General Secretary Dato’ Alex Soosay. He said this award is a pat on the shoulder for the work the academy has done so far. “We started with a very small set up and continued to grow with the help of friends. It’s really good to see that the news of our good work has reached AFC and we feel honored to receive this award,” he said. “It is really a proud moment to be an NGO of the year and this recognition will surely boost our morale.”

The award for an NGO is one of three new categories of the AFC Dream Asia Award, which will be given annually. The other two categories are ‘Individual’ and ‘Corporate’. The AFC Dream Asia Awards is a showcase of recognition for those who have shown exemplary commitment towards social development. The AFC has been giving an AFC Dream Asia Award to a Member Association during its AFC Annual Awards gala every year. This year the AFC has expanded the awards category to ensure NGOs, corporations and individuals also receive rightful recognition and appreciation for their initiatives that have brought meaningful and impactful social change.Fantastic news for our great friends at the SALT Academy and recognition for years of hard work from Sam and his team.

Well Sam and SALT academy really deserve this award. I personally believe that any form of sport gives young girls confidence, resilience, social competence, autonomy and optimism and also a relevant entry point for dialogue. As a SRHR activist I see sports among adolescent girls enhance their capacity to discuss on sensitive issues such as SRHR. Sports build essential life-skills that girls need to effectively and successfully exercise their SRHR. Empowering adolescent girls through sport will result in improved life skills and can contribute to sexual and reproductive health in the broadest sense including pleasure, love and sexual well-being.