How Futsal is playing a positive force for Gawad Kalinga communities this pandemic

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
How Futsal is playing a positive force for Gawad Kalinga communities this pandemic
Programs like SIPAG play a crucial role in allowing GK youth to apply their learnings through sports.

BORACAY, Aklan – While most sports aren’t played yet in this pandemic, the futsal program of Gawad Kalinga is keeping many kids all over the country in good health and in good spirits.

On the island paradise of Boracay, children aren’t yet allowed to play on the beaches. To keep them fit, healthy and busy with school out and while under lockdown, GK futsal coach Chester de Torres and Marlyn Importante, who handles GK’s futsal program called “SipaG”, oversee the training of kids — with proper health and safety protocols observed — inside the GK community.

“In this lockdown, we have to keep the kids busy,” explained Importante. “With nothing to do, we came up with a training program inside the community bubble that keeps them busy, healthy, and with something to look forward to when sports are finally allowed to be played.”

“More than keeping busy, it is a (holistic) grassroots program that we have in place.” 

Futsal coach Chester de Torres.

De Torres concurred and sees the lockdown as an opportunity to get kids away from too much online surfing but to learn things the old school way. During the pandemic, GK’s futsal program conducted feeding programs, soup kitchens, online tutoring sessions, and online skills trainings in GK communities. Youth coaches who graduated from the program are now going around the country to engage children in activities following proper safety protocols. 

“GK has various programs that are designed to develop the children in every community,” said de Torres.

“SAGIP is the values formation program while SIGA provides opportunities for the youth to hone their skills and talents to make them productive citizens. And lastly, there is SIPAG which is our sports program that facilitates and reinforces our values formation through the mediums of football, beach soccer and futsal,” he added.

Programs like SIPAG play a crucial role in allowing GK youth to apply their learnings through sports. But the program also creates youth leaders who have a culture of giving back, and the pandemic is not stopping them from achieving GK’s youth development objective.

Princess Magbago, a former GK player, ended up securing a full academic scholarship to the International School of Manila’s prestigious Filipino Scholars Program. She recounted how in her scholarship application to the school, she wrote an essay highlighting the concerns of GK families such as wondering where to get their next meal. “Writing an essay got the word out and made more people understand our situation. Being involved in the program now and participating, my goal is to be able to help my family.” During the pandemic, she helped a classmate in ISM start an outreach program together with Kaya Academy called “Kaya Cares”, that allows players and parents of Kaya Academy to support youth in GK communities, especially young girls.

De Torres’ family was a beneficiary of GK where the family was given a home. Now he works full-time as a coach both for SipaG and for Kaya Academy and handles 30 GK communities nationwide even during this pandemic. 

“It is through this program where I was able to get a scholarship to study at the College of St. Benilde,” related de Torres. “It is through this program where I was also able to coach and receive my Asian Football Confederation (AFC) coaching license as well as my coaching badge in Sports for Social Impact from the Coaches Across Continents. We want to use sports as a means to get an education and opportunities to play and earn a living or even coach.”

Cian Gabriel Galsim is a 17-year-old boy from Mandaluyong where he was a teammate of de Torres.

Galsim is living testament to the programs of GK as he currently is in the Kaya Football Club Youth Academy where his goal is to make the club’s senior squad. Cian started his journey in futsal, due to the lack of space in GK communities and made the switch to football at age 12. A former U16 youth national team player, Cian was nominated by the Philippine Football Federation to represent the country as one of AFC’s Youth Ambassadors, a group of youth national team players selected from across Asia and tasked by the AFC to make an impact off the pitch. 

The young lad at the moment relocated to Pampanga where he helps train young boys. In 2020, with the support of AFC and the PFF, Cian conducted an online skills clinic for marginalized youth in Palo Leyte 

“Futsal took me to the streets and into the program. In this pandemic, I am keeping busy by helping train younger kids,” shared Cian.

“The pandemic put a stop to many things, but we have to find ways to adapt and maintain our positivity,” summed up Importante. “Through futsal, we are trying to teach the youth of what they can achieve.”

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