In Timbiquí, Cauca, in Colombia’s Pacific region, the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Program (ACIP) and Fundación Tiempo de Juego harness soccer, the national pastime, as a catalyst for social change. At Soccer for Peace Schools, soccer balls replace weapons.

Nearly 97 percent of Timbiquí inhabitants are Afro-Colombian or indigenous. Due to decades of armed conflict, they are especially vulnerable to violence. Left with little to do (the river is too polluted by illegal mining to swim in any longer), the region’s young people are often recruited into the drug trade. Soccer for Peace Schools are changing this as they create spaces for kids to be kids.

Girls are especially encouraged to participate; in fact, one of the rules is that a girl must score each game’s first goal.

“Timbiquí’s kids are surrounded by violence. I want Timbiquí’s kids to have a space where they can have fun and where they will be safe.” –Youth leader Jazmin Gomez affirms