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Mon. 07 June 2021

Venezuela: students serving the community

Picture: Graduation Ceremony 2019

In 2010, CIES signed a partnership agreement with the Universidad Metropolitana (UNIMET) in Caracas to organise the FIFA/CIES Executive Programme in Sports Management in Venezuela. Since then, the country has fallen into a serious economic crisis. However, the organisers of the Programme reveal here the positive impact of the course despite the current difficult context.

The first encouraging fact is that, according to Rafael Espinoza, Coordinator of the UNIMET/FIFA/CIES Executive Programme at the "Centro de Extensión, Desarrollo Ejecutivo y Consultoría Organizacional" (CENDECO), the number of students has not decreased during the eleven years of partnership in the country. He explains this by the fact that many people feel the need to continue their personal development in order to cope with a complicated situation. As he explains, "Popular wisdom says that in times of crisis, the best investment is education. We have seen this with our Programme in Sports Management. There is a willingness in our students not to give up, to move forward and, underlying this, the motivation to be useful to the country. "

On the pedagogical side, the organisers have made a sustained effort to maintain the academic quality of the Programme despite the circumstances, relying on a team of highly competent and motivated teachers. They also had to be creative in terms of administration and logistics to keep the courses dynamic and attractive.

Another pleasing fact is that many students have used their studies with the aim of developing entrepreneurial projects. According to Victor Ledezma, CIES Local Coordinator, this corresponds to a recurrent phenomenon in Venezuela, that of putting ideas into practice to face personal economic difficulties, joining the effort to contribute to the country's recovery, and working for the benefit of wider Venezuelan society.

Providing a clear example, he said, "More than 70% of the projects designed within the framework of the UNIMET/FIFA/CIES Programme have a social innovation component. This is the case, for example, with one of the projects developed in 2020, entitled "SUMATEA Integral Football Programme - Your world is also our world", which aims to improve social interaction for children with communication difficulties due to autism spectrum disorders. Another similar project, which won the FIFA/CIES University Network Award in 2015, is the creation of a baseball academy to train young people at risk (drugs, delinquency) and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, based on the trinity of sport, education and moral principles.”

In recent years, UNIMET/FIFA/CIES Executive Programme students have also proposed projects related to sport and the environment, the promotion of sporting values, the use of football as an instrument of social change, the teaching of football to deaf people and the integration of disabled children into professional football club structures, for example. Many of these projects were then developed into individual actions, such as in a workspace, or by evolving into non-profit associations. This is the case with the projects which addressed teaching football to the hearing impaired and the project on the civil association "Sport for Development". In addition, three alumni are now using their group work entitled "Identity of Peace" in human rights projects. Another graduate, who was involved in the development of an applied science project on youth football, works closely with sports organisations to prevent injuries to athletes, while offering her services to small associations and disadvantaged youth.

The design of the Final Projects has also given some the impetus to pursue other professional activities. This is the case of a student from the first edition of the programme in Venezuela who now runs training programmes for children combining art, football and its history. Also, one of the winners of the FIFA/CIES University Network Award has founded a company that implements some of the findings of their group project by providing solutions to its clients, while at the same time addressing social issues in surrounding communities.

The projects have also had a wider public life. Some students have given lectures about them, others have written articles. Further still, the "Sport for Development" project has been nominated for the 2019 Peace and Sport Awards.

In conclusion, we can only congratulate the students of UNIMET and CENDECO who have shown a great sense of social responsibility through their innovative projects. For them, studying is good. Putting sport and football at the service of the community is even better.

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