ASUNCION – Inter Campus has just completed their visit to Asuncion where they started off in the mountain of rubbish that thousands of people call home in the town of Cateura.
With the help of local contact Julio Gonzalez Ferreira, Inter Campus Paraguay annually supports 300 children who live in the 'basural' and at the Aldeas Infantiles SOS facility in Zeballos Cue – a village for orphans who grow up in houses run by an adoptive mother.
Inter Campus has been working in these two environments for seven years and have seen marked improvement in both. The children have changed their behaviour significantly compared to before when they were less keen on listening and obeying the rules.
Nevertheless, the living conditions are still extremely difficult. Due to the continuous flooding of the Paraguay River, our football pitch in Cateura was covered in tents and makeshift homes, with the posts used to support roofs. This didn't put off our dedicated and patient coach Raimundo who, helped by his assistant Fermin, marked out two spaces in which to play with his bare hands.
The playing surface was far from ideal – partly on a slope with clumps of dirt and rubbish all around – but this didn't seem to worry the youngsters who turn up for training three times a week. This is the only place where they're able to play and behave like children.
Similarly, the pitches we use at Zeballos Cue are on an incline and unfortunately are also threatened by bulldozers. The area has been included in a construction project for low-cost housing but we're in contact with local authorities to try and keep the space open as a play area. Local coaches Reinaldo, Celso and Kevin are endlessly enthusiastic when going about their work here as well.
Inter Campus's project in Paraguay is made all the more significant when you hear Kevin's story. As a child, he grew up at Aldeas SOS and was on the receiving end of Inter Campus's work. He took part in the Inter Campus World Cup in 2009 and since then has remained so loyal and attached to the project that he continued to be a part of it even after his journey had ended.
Kevin is currently a young coach who shows talent, motivation and passion. To see him embark down this path is something the entire project can be extremely proud of; he's a role model that we can show to the new generation of kids coming through.
During the week, we had theoretical sessions in the mornings at Aldeas SOS and in Raimundo's home – one of the few brick structures in the landfill site. The afternoons were spent out on the pitch, much to the delight of the children who couldn't wait to play with us.
The final day featured a tournament involving kids from both sites at Zeballos Cue and there was enjoyment aplenty for everyone who joined in.