Most of us take our kids’ extracurricular activities for granted. For some children, access to such activities is extremely limited – and the chance to participate can pave the way to a much brighter future. This is indeed the case for the young footballers of the innovative Acadena program.
Acadena was started in September 2015 by Charly Nomdedeu, a former Assistant Director of the JMG Thailand Football Academy, which trains talented youngsters for a career in professional football. A former footballer himself, Charly envisioned a holistic football and social-oriented development program designed to provide a quality education (and ultimately, a better life) to slum children by elevating their football skills to the point where they win full scholarships in reputable Thai schools. In the process, they receive free coaching, English-language classes and other academic support, and mentorship – from Charly and other volunteers, including French professional footballer Christophe Jallet of Olympique Lyonnais. Jallet offers inspiration, serving as the group’s so-called ‘Godfather’.
At present, six boys from the Klong Toey slum have been selected for the program. Since November, a typical day for them involves attending their community school and joining mandatory daily after-school football practice. Acadena provides football gear and equipment, healthy snacks such as fruit and milk, transportation to and from the rented pitch, shower facilities, and a nutritious dinner. As the program grows, Charly hopes to take on four more boys from other low-income communities in Bangkok.
With 10 players, the Acadena team can enter into competitions (by then, they will have had adequate training) with other Bangkok slum kids. By October this year, Charly hopes the team will be living together in a rented home in Petchaburi or Hua Hin, to be called Acadena House, with its own nutritional regimen, daily training on their own football field, and education transition support with individual follow-up and an intensive English program. By 2018, the kids will hopefully have a solid foundation of football and academics, allowing them to win full scholarships in coveted Bangkok schools. Also, if all goes well, an Acadena girls team will follow.
Alongside this ambitious program, Charly is launching the First Goal initiative for 5 to 12 year old children, including boys and girls, who live in Klong Toey and Bon Kai. Similarly, the objectives are to give roughly 100 kids healthier lifestyles through football training three times a week, including the provision of nutritious snacks, English language lessons, and mentorship.
How can you help?
The Acadena and First Goal programs require a considerable amount of resources, including sponsors for the kids’ snacks such as UHT milk, fresh fruit (bananas), and cereal bars. They also need volunteer English teachers, as well as monetary donations to cover the cost of teaching materials, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. The Acadena team is also hoping to participate in the Paris World Cup that will take place from 4 to 6 July 2016, and funds towards their travel expenses will be greatly appreciated.