A sports camp that invests in girl power

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Girls Got Game, a roving sports camp for young girls in less privileged communities, invests in the power of girls to end the poverty of cycle around the world. By playing basketball, volleyball, or rugby, young girls discover the power of sports to change lives. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The Girl Effect works on the premise that a girl, who is between the ages of 10 to 12, has the potential to end the cycle of poverty around the world. It presupposes that for a young girl living in poverty, puberty brings about physical and psychological changes that make her vulnerable to unwanted conditions like forced marriage, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, and disease. But if she has access to tools that help her develop her self-esteem and empower her to stand up for herself, then she is more likely to stay in school, stay away from vices, and help her community.

The Girl Effect is what drives Girls Got Game, a roving sports camp that caters to 10- to 12-year-old girls from less privileged communities. “Think of us as spark plugs, we plant the seed,” says Girls Got Game managing director Mariana Lopa. “We just let them know that it’s here, it’s fun, you can do this.” Inspired by the premise that investing in girls can end poverty before it starts, Girls Got Game founder Krizanne Ty says “a Filipino girl can break the cycle of poverty and she can do it through sports.”

GGG2.jpg The Girl Effect works on the premise that a girl, who is in between the ages of 10 to 12, has the potential to end the cycle of poverty around the world. Photo by JL JAVIER

GGG4.jpg If a girl has access to tools that help her develop her self-esteem and empower her to stand up for herself, then she is more likely to stay in school, stay away from vices, and help her community. Photo by JL JAVIER

The sports camps take place over a weekend, where the girls learn how to play basketball, volleyball, football, and rugby, while getting acquainted with role models and different speakers that talk about how sports helped them shape their lives. The camps are run by mostly female volunteers who play sports professionally or have grown up playing sports for their respective schools and universities.

The volunteers are bound by a common belief: that the confidence, discipline, and focus that they learned through sports is what shaped them into the people they are today, and is something that they want to pass on to the girls that attend their sports camps.

The organization runs on donations and partnerships with different companies and have reached over 600 kids so far.

“Our short-term goal is to expand nationwide,” Ty says. “That’s why we did Davao last year, and this year, we’re doing Bacolod.” But in the long run, the girls want to develop the organization into something that sustains itself, to build a business around it so that it functions even without them. “I want to create a program that we can pass on to the next generation,” Lopa says.

GGG5.jpg The sports camps take place over a weekend, where the girls learn how to play basketball, volleyball, football, and rugby. Photo by JL JAVIER

GGG6.jpg Girls Got Game managing director Mariana Lopa and founder Krizanne Ty. Photo by JL JAVIER

Most of the girls that attend the camps have no previous experience with sports. Ty says that most of the girls come with pre-existing notions about sports that are dominant in most of the communities they encounter: “Basketball is for boys, sports are for boys, hindi kaya ng girl … those are the things that we are trying to change.”

The concept of disrupting the cycle of poverty with just one girl may seem far-fetched, but both Lopa and Ty have seen the effects firsthand. They talk about Twinky, a 10-year-old girl from Parañaque, who stood out because she was the most active and participative student that day. Ty took her aside and asked her why she wanted to play sports. She burst into tears and said that it was because she wanted to see her father. “Daddy daw niya OFW. Gusto niyang mag-football para hindi na niya kailangang mag-OFW. Gusto niyang maging scholar. Gusto niyang gumaling, gusto niya ma-represent ‘yung Philippines. Mapanood siya ng tatay niya at ‘di na malayo ‘yung tatay niya sa kanya.”

If an afternoon of playing football can encourage a 10-year-old girl to see that far into the future, who knows what else it can bring?