Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Kicking poverty

via CAAI

Natalie Tims
1st February 2011

Christy Jefferson is leaving for Cambodia to help develop a football programme. Photo / Garry Brandon

Two Aucklanders kicking back in Southeast Asia. Nothing unusual in that? Natalie Tims explains why Ben and Kristy Jefferson will have to be at the top of their game.

It is one of those great conversation killers at dinner parties: "We're going to Cambodia for six months on our savings, to help out at a soccer school."

Ben and Kristy Jefferson, however, have complete faith their trip will be nothing short of an adventure. The 26- and 27- year-old leave New Zealand in March for the Battambang province of northwestern Cambodia where they will work with a community soccer school that offers free coaching to children and adults.

The Sport and Leadership Training Academy (SALT) is a small, non-governmental organisation giving something that's fun, active and positive to people weighed down by poverty.

The opportunity for the couple arose through a contact Ben made on a soccer tour of Cambodia eight years ago with the New Zealand organisation Soccer Plus.

"We wanted to take a trip overseas and I had been to Cambodia and really loved it."

Ben, a government policy analyst, and Kristy, a secondary school teacher, will help give shape to the academy's current programme while helping to secure funding.

A unique aspect of the academy is its development of soccer programmes for girls, who are often overlooked in Cambodian sport.

"SALT facilitates soccer leagues and equips teams, particularly teams for girls who are often faced with alternatives because of the poverty surrounding them," says Ben.

"It's about using football as a way to combat problems facing communities."

The couple's adventure has met mostly positive responses. "Mum and dad are still a bit wary for my safety," admits Kristy.

A teacher of te reo Maori and social studies, Kristy says she looks forward to learning and experiencing Cambodian culture.

The Jeffersons, who will return to New Zealand via the UK, acknowledge six months in Cambodia will be challenging.

"We're not going out to save the world," says Ben. "We'll be localised and relational and having an adventure, and if we can help people along the way - great."

For more information about SALT schemes, see http://www.saltacademy.net/

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