Maleja: Tour of ambasadors? Inspiration for whole life

First of all, introduce yourself breifly, for how long you’ve been part of your organization and what is your role/position in it.

I’m María Alejandra Riveros, but I prefer to be called “Maleja”. I started working for Tiempo de Juego 6 years ago. I started as an assistant of sport and artistic activities such as Break Dance and a female empowerment project called Women Win.
After two months, I was invited to be part of the community leader school in Tiempo de Juego. During this time, I learnt to build and develop youth leadership skills. I consider that from that moment on, my life turned around and I found out that I had many positive competences and also being part of this community and Tiempo de Juego made me show the best version of myself.

Currently, I’m happy to be a community manager. This role allows me to lead, carry out and build a project called “Escuela de Genero” (Gender School). The main goal of this project is to empower boys and girls between 10 and 20 years old living in Cazucá, allowing them to get informed, live and learn about topics such contraceptive methods, care and self-esteem, sexual identities, gender, equity, sexual and reproductive rights, dignified and equal treatment among other dynamics of social inclusion.

Another initiative that I take part of is Futbol Género (Gender Football), this project was born from the idea of mainstreaming the concept of inclusion in the organization, putting it into practice in scenarios and activities that have been stigmatized, such as soccer, which has allowed in this case to teach gender issues in company of a ball, and above all break stereotypes that for many years accompany the activities labelled as male and female, as well as the role of men in the fight against women in the search for equal rights in our society. In addition, I support other sports activities with some management and logistics functions

## Was the campaign your first experience abroad with your organization? If not, what was the first experience?

During these years I have had the opportunity to represent Tiempo De Juego at national level in different events, but during the year 2017 I had the fortune of traveling to Buenos Aires, and Argentina to the Latin American Football Festival 3.
This was an event promoted by the Latin American Network of StreetFootballWorld, and hosted by Asociación Civil Andar with the support of the International Street Football World Network. In this case I was part of the Latam Youth Network, for which we played an essential role in the planning, organization and development of the meeting, projecting the actions, acting as mediators during the tournament, also supporting the different work commissions and coordinating different activities for our delegations, all this during the festival
How did you hear about the Fotbal pro Rozvoj campaing? Who contacted you from your organization and what was your first reaction when you knew you were selected for the campaign.

The first news I received about the campaign was from the general manager of our organization who, through a phone call, let me know that I had been selected to represent Tiempo De Juego in an international camp of young leaders. This was very exciting, I felt joy, pride, fear, happiness and much gratitude.
For a moment I believed that this new was not true, it was very difficult to believe that it was really happening, but my first reaction was to inform my family. Since that day, things were getting more official, we had much more information and we were getting closer to this wonderful experience.

How would you describe the project (the campaign) itself?

The camp became my favorite experience. Everything I managed to learn, know and experience filled me with satisfaction and pride, from the first day to the last day it had a pleasant and motivating atmosphere. During the month that I had the opportunity to be part of this mega project, I thought how fortunate I had been to be there, to visit so many wonderful places, to meet such incomparable people, to show how important soccer has been in my life.

If I dared to describe the camp with a single word, it would be Inspiration, because it was very rewarding to see how the opinion, the skills for life, cooperation, football, teamwork, love towards what we do and happiness were united in one place and showed us that with good deeds we managed to care for our society.

In my opinion, these experiences allow young people to contribute with positive actions in our different communities, and above all, motivate young people to dream and improve everyday, but this also allows us to recognize and show the great power that football has if we play from the heart, because your nationality does not matter, it does not matter if you are a professional player or not, if you are male or female, if you are young or adult, if you are white or black. What really matters is that we allow ourselves to see football as a tool to see many more actions of transformation and social development flourish, as it was during this incredible and fantastic camp, which was a way to gather people from different cultures and recognize football as a Universal language.

What are the main differences you noticed between your culture and the Czech one?

During my stay in the Czech Republic we recognized and mitigated some stereotypes that we have in the face of other nationalities, but contrary to this, our cultures go hand in hand, our customs and history make us different, but at the same time it shows us how beautiful and important what it means to have differences. In Czech Republic we find wonderful things and places.

Something very interesting about this place is that it has many innovative things, for example the transportation, which in the case of my city is chaotic, in every place we visited, we found decent transport and good service,
On the other hand the schools had enough tools to provide a good education to their students. Also, something I admired a lot was that during my visit I did not receive any type of street harassment, something that surprised me a lot because in the street I felt safe to walk, contrary to the place where I live, where all the time the girls walking on the street, they receive without consent overwhelming messages, harassing, abusive, violent and morbid insults, which should not be happening in these times.

What was the most difficult thing to you during the campaign? And the easiest one?

For me, the most difficult thing in the camp was the language, in many occasions it was difficult for me to communicate since I felt a bit insecure when speaking, I think the problem was that I did not trust in my ability to speak English, but in the end I was able to share my ideas and opinions, but at the same time I wanted to communicate with the children who participate in the workshops or action days and sometimes was frustrating because in some cities we had a lot of connection with them and we had the need and conexion to talk more and more .

On the other hand, the easiest thing for me was to join this new culture, food, people, places, I felt very comfortable with all this, in different situations I felt at home, I felt this country as my own home.

What do you take from the Campaign?

From the campaign I took many more lessons about the methodology of Football3, many rewarding experiences, and I keep beautiful memories.
I dare to take from this experience the desire to spread the football spirit to other people, but from the campaign I would take especially the great cooperation that we had when planning and executing activities, and also the desire and passion which the tournaments and workshops were held with.

Do you think you can apply the skills gained in the campaign to your life? How?

I think that during the campaign we acquired many skills that can be implemented in each of our organizations, for example, the games and activities that we experienced during the camp could be executed since we are in the same branch, which is football for development.

In my case I have implemented a couple of activities that were scheduled in the workshops. From the campaign I could implement new ways of working as a team. Something very interesting was the moments of planning the activities that had to be done and the feedback of what happened and what could be improved, this could work especially when we have small events, the fact of sharing and dividing responsibilities would improve the executions of these.

How do you imagine your future in the next years? What would you like to achieve? What are you dreaming about?

I would like in a couple of years to be an example for young people in my community showing that no matter the negative situations or problems, everything in life is possible. Dreams and goals if you work in a good way will be achieved.

In the future I have some plans to make, the first is to enrol at university and then achieve a professional career in anthropology , and more specifically in social anthropology. This would allow me to have much more knowledge and ideas to continue contributing to the empowerment of different communities.
I would like after many years of study and from my experience, to be able to lead and coordinate community processes where the protagonists are the children in a situation of violation.
In addition, I would like to know new cultures, new contexts, new stories and new territories, and above all to volunteer in different social organizations.

But I also dream that we have just, tolerant and empathetic societies, where people and especially leaders do not fear to defend their opinions, and exclaim for our rights, a society where women are respected and given the right of life, where my niece, for example, who is the youngest in my house feels safe without any fear or worry when going out to the street, where she and all the children have a guarantee of each of their rights.

The tour of ambassadors is supported by the Czech development agency. Thank you for cooperation!

Tour 2018 - best of