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Brazil Alumna Works on Soccer Program for Girls in Fortaleza Favela
Summer Sinsigalli (University of Colorado Boulder) studied on SIT’s Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development program in spring 2015. During the Independent Study Project period the program, she was involved with the launch of a program in Fortaleza to empower young girls living in favelas. Below, we talk with Summer about this program.
SIT Study Abroad: Tell me a little about the program you’re involved with.
Summer Sinsigalli: Trilhando Caminho is a soccer program for girls in the favela Trilho, located in the center of Aldeota. While Aldeota is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Fortaleza, Trilho is a typical Brazilian favela, where activities such as gang violence, prostitution, and drug involvement are quite common.
Trilhando Caminho’s mission is to provide the girls of this community with a safe place to play soccer, socialize with other girls of the community, and stay away from the other activities that happen in the favela. Soccer is an empowering sport for girls, specifically in Brazil, as soccer is a man’s sport in Brazil. By showing these girls that they can play a sport outside of the cultural norm that machismo culture dictates, Trilhando Caminho’s hope is to help them move past the cycle of poverty.
SIT: Why did you start this program?
Summer: It was quite serendipitous, really. I went into the favela assuming that the program had already been created and that I would merely be a sociological observer. However, when I arrived, I was given a list of ten girls, and that was it. Soccer played a huge role in my development as an empowered woman; I can attribute many of the positive values that I hold today because of my experiences on the soccer pitch. That being said, I was more than eager to get this program started, to see the passion in these girls’ eyes when they score their first goal, and to be able to witness the beginnings of what I hope will be a truly impacting program in Trilho.
I am eternally grateful for my experiences in Fortaleza.
SIT: Tell me a little about the Independent Study Project (ISP) you did on the SIT program.
Summer: My ISP focused on my experiences in Trilho and provided a framework for the ways that we can better the [Trilhando Caminho] program, given the societal hardships and structural issues that the program is facing. Throughout my experience, I learned a lot about the culture of Brazil, and the culture of soccer, specifically, in Brazil. I realized just how important machismo culture is in Brazil and how it is heightened in favelas because of the socioeconomic status of favelas’ inhabitants.
The project was so insightful for me. I immersed myself in the culture of favelas, and learned how the people of Trilho find pure joy in the simple things of life, as sometimes that is all they have. Internally, I learned that most of what I experience in this life is out of my control, but I can always choose to make the best out of my experiences and adventures. I am eternally grateful for my experiences in Fortaleza.
SIT: What do you hope to accomplish with this program?
Summer: I truly believe that soccer is such an important sport for girls to learn, as it is a safe space to practice social interactions on the field that translate into everyday life. Getting competitive on the field can promote an overall group cohesion of the team, as they are all motivated towards one goal. If girls are upset at each other on the field, they can hold each other accountable, and talk through it constructively. And, of course, soccer teaches girls to harness the pure strength they all have inside of them, empowering them to push beyond the hurdles that inhibit them, both on and off the field.