Residents in San Antonio Palopó on the shores of the famous Lake Atitlan are waiting eagerly for the next love.fútbol project to get underway.
Guatemalan Operations Director Jesse Sperling visited the site last week, along with Project Director Cesar Garcia. There, they attended a town meeting and surveyed the site.
San Antonio Palopó was hit hard by last winter's torrential rains, resulting in landslides and several casualties. The mountainous terrain along the lake shore makes for some spectacular scenery, but is far from adequate for a safe pick up game of soccer.
Among the few places kids can play, the sandy patch above near the lake shore is contaminated by a stream of raw sewage. It doubles as a parking lot, and housed tents which passed for homes for survivors of the mudslide for several months late last year. The area is also a street frequented by buses and cars.
"Cesar, Jesse and I went to one of the two schools in town and the kids -- some of them looked like highschoolers -- when we showed up, were already playing soccer in a classroom which was a truly minimal amount of space for the number of kids. It was almost absurd; might be a good venue for one on one or maybe twos, at the most. To me it was a great example of the need for the project."
But San Antonio Palopó is a good place for love.fútbol to work not just because there are few safe places for kids to play. The community is also anxious to get the project started, from the community leaders down through the boys and girls that will be using the field once it is completed, hopefully by mid-March.
This sort of community engagement and participation is absolutely essential to the love.fútbol work plan. It's the third step in love.fútbol's process of identifying communities and readying them to take ownership of the project, assuring long-run success and optimal use of resources.
Of course all communities are welcoming when a new project is brought to them, but the ones love.fútbol ends up working with are the ones that demonstrate that ability to get involved and managed the process themselves, increasing the chance of long term preservation and maximization of the time and money invested in building their field.
There are plenty of indications that San Antonio Palopó will be just such a site. The most obvious is the excitement surrounding the project in the community: