Let’s Play Ball

This weekend, I had the chance to participate in an amazing training for a program called Grassrootsoccer – the mission of our specific curriculum is to empower young girls through health education and playing soccer. Lila, a friend from my training village, put together the whole training for volunteers and local counterparts to learn the curriculum, discuss logistics for starting up a girls health and soccer club, and how to localize the curriculum, which was written with African countries in mind.

We began the first session with the question: “What language shall we use for the training?” The local counterparts thought for a second, and one by one, they asked for Russian. Half of the girls are ethnically Uzbek, and many of the rest attend Russian language schools or speak Russian at home – it’s not that they don’t know Kyrgyz, just that they seemed more comfortable to discuss this in Kyrgyz. Bakyt, a teacher at my university and a huge advocate for Grassrootsoccer, reminded our group that the materials were only translated into Kyrgyz and said that he would only translate the sessions into Kyrgyz. An hour later, Meerim – another trainer coming from Osh – showed up and insisted that content be translated into Russian. She worked from the English book, rather than the Kyrgyz, because she didn’t recognize many of the Kyrgyz health-related words. Apparently, it’s more common to use Russian medical terminology because it’s more expressive and descriptive.

I’m so thankful to know both Russian and Kyrgyz – so many of the sessions and questions and translations ended up being in Krussian. For the most part, I was able to follow along with the girls’ conversations, and I was also glad to be able to talk with my counterpart, Eliza, pretty easily. We were assigned to prepare a lesson about family planning methods – kind of an intense topic for a young Kyrgyz girl, but we worked our way through the awkwardness (and both learned a lot of vocab in English, Russian, and Kyrgyz to boot). I’m sure that if we can prepare a lesson on that, we’re set for the other lessons in the curriculum, which include body positivity, healthy relationships, and the difference between gender and sex. Each 45-minute thematic lesson is paired with 45 minutes of soccer drills and team-building activities.

team dinosaur

Team Dinosaur, ready to dominate at making goals and playing handball

outside exercises

Doing some warm-up drills in the parking lot; we attracted quite a crowd of observers, mostly kids coming home from school, but also a few older men in kalpaks

“Sporty” is not exactly the first adjective that comes to mind when I describe myself, but if it’s necessary to run around and kick a ball at goal posts made of water bottles for the greater goal of giving Kyrgyz girls tools and information that will help them live a healthier life – then I’m on board. It’s too cold now to start up our Grassrootsoccer club, plus schools are going on a month-long break after Christmas, so I’ll update y’all in the spring with how my soccer club goes. Until then, I’ll be working on perfecting my dribbling skills in my bedroom.


All the training participants with their certificates – ready to start planning a club for the spring! So proud of the local counterparts!


Me and my counterpart, Eliza – a 9th grader at a school in Jalal-Abad City


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s