Four years ago, the Alfa y Omega Student Center opened its doors to the children of the community in San Benito, Nicaragua. And the work that initially looked hard is now obtaining great results.
Little more than a year ago, the idea of putting together sports teams at the center flourished. Three teams were formed: baseball, volleyball and soccer, and children volunteered to be part of one of them.
“The purpose of these teams is to keep children healthy, to help them relate with one another, to discover their talents, and to make good use of their free time. It’s also a time of recreation and sharing among them,” says Melania, the center director.
The community is aware of this purpose, and they are thankful and support the activities held at the church. Some of the children have been invited to be part of the community’s league when they play with other schools or towns.
The center’s baseball team has boys ages 6 to 14; soccer is for boys ages 9 to 11; and volleyball for girls ages 9 to 14. The children practice for an hour each day they are at the center, to be ready for any game that turns up.
Friendly games with other centers are organized once a month. These games give an opportunity to make new friends and to share experiences between children and staff.
The baseball team also plays other teams from the community every Saturday; they are currently struggling to make first place. These games allow the children to witness to other children. The games are held at the community’s basketball court and baseball field, since the center has enough space only for volleyball.
Before each game begins, rules are discussed, and then a word of prayer is given by the pastor who coaches the center’s baseball team. During this time baseball lasts for six innings and volleyball two quarters. At the end, drinks and snacks are served for everybody.
Since this is a very tranquil community, there aren’t gangs to take children out of the good way, although there are vices like alcohol and smoking. But with sports and reading activities, children keep busy, learn, and even challenge themselves with competitions among their group.
Many other children want to be part of any of the teams. To integrate them, competitions are organized between those who have the uniform and those who don’t, to begin training them.
The experience of having formal teams organized at student centers is giving good results to those centers that are implementing sport as one of the extracurricular activities. Children get excited and practice on their own as they play during their break and any other free time they have. Staff also is motivated by the excitement children show.
Because of the results seen during this time, Melania says,
“I encourage other centers to begin sport activities because there is a lot of benefit in it. There is a lot to explore in children, we get to know them more, we find out what they want, they learn to express their ideas, to be spontaneous and original. Children have to learn to lose and to win and to be Christians anywhere.
“For the center staff it has been a positive experience. Those who didn’t like sports are now enjoying it as they see children interested and dedicated to it. We have a vision for children to have a sound mind, healthy bodies, and be able to interact with others.
“These sports are important because they give children life, energy; the children are always on time for practice and they carry the equipment where they need to. Sports help children to stay motivated and active in the center. They joke among themselves that if they miss regular center activities, they could be taken out of the team.
“The center is important in this community because we help kids spiritually and materially . . . The community speaks well of the center because they have seen we are here for the children to give them moral and spiritual support at any time they need it.”