October 23, 2020
From October 12 to October 23, we are highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlisters who are using sport to ensure inclusive economic growth and productive work for all. FundLife International is one of them. Learn more about their life-changing approach to helping Filipino children prosper in life, with a special focus on making sure ‘Girls Got This’.
FundLife was born out of a natural disaster. Over the course of nine days in 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated Southeast Asia and particularly the Philippines. It was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded and many of the 16 million affected were left with nothing.
Those who would ultimately go on to form the organization took notice of the social interventions made in response to alleviate the resulting trauma, a number of which consisted of play-based sessions and sport tournaments in partnership with local clubs and communities. Fundlife saw the potential to use sport holistically to support vulnerable children – recognizing that it all began with play.
“It’s very easy for the kids to understand specific topics, learnings or values if you use sports…You just give something as an example and then they will process those things,” says Operations Manager, Kim Lopez, on the Purposeful Play approach to addressing the educational, economic and gender issues they target.
“I think that this is really a much more effective tool rather than gathering kids and then speaking to them about a lot of things…If they are really involved in the topic they will understand more.”
FundLife’s primary goal is to alleviate poverty with a focus on keeping kids in school. They help them develop the skills and mindsets necessary to prepare, adapt and tackle the real-life challenges they will encounter in the future.
“The schools teach them to read, write and learn. We teach the kids the importance of having values, teamwork and being able to face failures in order to improve their lives so that they can help their families and in return they can improve the living of the community,” she continued.
Their approach is collaborative and community-led with a strong reliance on strategic partnerships. The organization has successfully created an environment where the whole community works together to tackle child protection, lessen dropout rates and increase employment opportunities.
While FundLife’s programming supports quality education and equal opportunities for all children, they run programs specifically targeting girls, as they traditionally don’t have equal opportunities in society. Girls Got This (GGT), a youth-led, grassroots non-profit for which they were shortlisted, is one of the main learning pathways for highly vulnerable adolescent girls that they support.
FundlLife and GGT are based in Tacloban City, where youth are marginalized and many female students are labelled and neglected when they don’t conform with the ‘normal’. Many girls don’t receive proper interventions and most end up quitting school, marrying early and getting pregnant.
This is compounded by a treacherous reality in the Philippines. Kim describes metro Cebu, their other focus location, as a highly urbanized slum that is a hotspot for online sexual abuse, domestic abuse and trafficking. Annually, over 100,000 girls aged 12-17 are victims of child sex-trafficking and/or sexual exploitation in the Philippines. 73% of all sex-trafficking victims coming from the Asia-Pacific region.
Most families in Cebu live below poverty line and often, 13-18-year-old girls are forced by their families into exploitation because they don’t have other means of getting money. The girls stop going to school and get taken advantage of by predators.
“They are easily pressured because they are at the stage of trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.”
Through purposeful play and mentorship sessions, the program helps girls to remain in and graduate from school before connecting them with higher education opportunities and training to find employment or to start micro-enterprises.
Every session incorporates key life skills to reinforce a belief in their potential and to educate them on their rights, while also creating a safe space for girls at risk of gender-based violence.
Girls work on self-confidence, teamwork, patience and leadership with football and futsal coaches and are encouraged to dream big about their goals and the paths to achieve them. With the first step of fully engaging in school, they have the space to grow and agency in their futures.
“We just don’t gather girls to play. We gather them to discuss these topics: during the game how did you react to losing the ball? How does it relate to life? What if you lose the opportunity of going to school? Those kinds of engagement with the kids.”
In the next phase, local business partners conduct job workshops. Fundlife secures internships for the girls in the hopes that they will be hired afterwards. The program also offers coaching opportunities while studying and after graduating, giving them additional employment options.
Fundlife and Girls Got This are focused on transforming adversity into opportunity and supporting the power of dreaming big. As Kim summed it up:
“Whenever we visit these communities and talk to these girls, we always want the girls to say that they are more than just girls. They can do more. If their families just expect them to marry, be at home, take care of the kids, they are more than just that. They can help their family, improve their living, they can choose their own career path."
"We wanted the girls to have this attitude where they are confident about what they have. That they are empowered, they know that they have their rights, their skills and they can take on whatever the world gives to them.”
Fundlife is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Decent Work and Economic Growth category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s Shortlist and follow their journeys at beyondsport.org/journey.