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Football is Changing Lives in Colombia: The Story of Maleja Riveros

In some parts of Colombia, violence is all too regular. After a brutal civil war, the country struggles with problems of organised crime and violent outbursts in the streets. For Maleja, a young girl living just outside of Bogota, this violence spilled directly into her home. Maleja grew up in a household filled with domestic violence that eventually led to her parents splitting up. Shortly after, Maleja’s mom left Colombia to find better job opportunities. What began as absences of a month or two at a time, has now led Maleja’s mother to be gone for six months or more. This has forced Maleja into a position of filling the shoes of both her mother and father including taking care of her sister and her niece.

Maleja works hard to provide a complete life for her sister and niece. In addition to the work she must do around the house, Maleja works full time at Tiempo de Juego, often taking her niece with her to work to allow her sister to finish up her studies. It’s a lot of responsibility at such a young age, but Maleja knows that she is an example and a pillar for her sisters.

Things began to change for Maleja when she joined Tiempo de Juego six years ago. She credits the organisation with showing her that not only was personal transformation possible but so was community transformation. Playing football she discovered her own strengths and was able to deal with her hardships better. It gave her courage and faith in herself. Though it wasn’t as easy as just stepping on the pitch. In Maleja’s community, it is still viewed as taboo for women to touch a ball or to play in a tournament. But Tiempo de Juego has been working to change that and create a safe space for every woman who wants to play.

A lot of the children and youth in Maleja’s community are confronted with difficult daily lives and find a safe space in Tiempo de Juego to grow and develop into leaders. It’s because of this importance to the community that Maleja is passionate about her role as a coach in the organisation.

Maleja’s story is just one of the inspirational stories featured in the first video of our partnership with Onefootball. To see the entire Colombia episode, watch below.

Common Goal is uniting the football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time. And we can use your help. Join the team at www.common-goal.org

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