Why Paraguay?: Fulfilling a Promise
Made 30 Years Ago

Written by Brianna Canty

Why Paraguay?

We at Girls Soccer Worldwide get this question posed to us often. And it’s a fair one.

We are a non-profit primarily located in the Bay Area, California focused on helping girls rise out of poverty through sports, education, and leadership opportunities. So what does this have to do with Paraguay?

Well, it’s all about a promise.

Some of you may know about this promise that our co-founder, Walter Pratte, made to a small, rural community in Paraguay 30 years ago. But if you don’t, come learn about a big part of our “why.”

Why Paraguay? And, Why Coronel Bogado?

Let’s jump back to 1991. Walter was a young soccer player, born and raised in Argentina, who moved to Paraguay in his early twenties to play semi-professional soccer in a small town called Coronel Bogado. While he lived there, he was taken aback by the community’s generosity.

When he left two years later he was gifted an onion and a decorated yucca, a Paraguayan crop similar to a potato. The community had no money to buy him something yet ensured that he did not leave empty-handed. As Walter left, he promised that if he made a way for himself, he would “come back to give back.”

And that’s exactly what he did.

In the meantime, Walter born and raised in Argentina moved to the US and spent 20 years in and around women’s soccer, coaching the sport he loved and seeing the opportunities that it afforded girls in America.

Being raised In Argentina where girls were not provided an opportunity to play to seeing where many, not only played, they competed and were gaining life skills.  He imagined the difference it could have made for his sisters if they had access to the same sport he was privileged to have as a young boy. This was the change he wanted to bring back to the community that had changed him.

In 2015, Walter returned to Coronel Bogado with an idea to create a soccer program for young girls.

But he was told that “girls don’t want to play.” He knew this wasn’t true. The reality was they weren’t allowed to play, simply because they were girls. In fact, in many areas around the world girls are not provided opportunities to play soccer for the same reason.  Girls are missing out on important life skills only gained in sports that their counterparts are gaining daily leaving them steps behind to success. 

Poverty was still prevalent in the town and girls lack access to the same opportunities as boys. Walter knew that these girls deserved more. It was clear the commitment he had made prior was needed and he knew it was time to create that path he had promised.

He returned to the U.S. with a vision: to use the #1 loved sport in the world to connect two communities that need each other. Inspire girls in this small rural community to believe they deserve to play and to inspire girls back at home to believe in a bigger purpose for their lives. This was the spark that started Girls Soccer Worldwide.

The dreams, visions, and plans all came to fruition in November of 2016: the first Ambassador-led trip for Girls Soccer Worldwide was on its way over 6,000 miles away to Paraguay! A bridge between two communities that needed each other began to be built and girls were leading the way.

Everyone got on that plane in hopes of making an impact on the community of Coronel Bogado; but the reality was that the community of Coronel Bogado left an impact on all of them. And even more important, girls showed up and confirmed THEY DID WANT TO PLAY!

The first visit to Coronel Bogado solidified the goals for GSWW. Pamela and Walter witnessed the problems girls in that community faced: poverty and hunger, lack of education, and lack of opportunity. Every girl needs something and deserves everything. They left knowing they could make a difference and give back to the same community that had welcomed Walter with open arms in 1991. So, they got to work.

Today we regularly return to Paraguay to provide support, infrastructure, and essentials with the goal of creating sustainability. With every year since, every trip, every food kit and backpack packed, that bridge becomes stronger. We know that by changing the life of one girl there, we have the potential to change the lives of thousands.

It’s not just the location, or the emotional connection, that keeps us in Coronel Bogado. Why Paraguay? We continue our work in Paraguay because of the need.In Paraguay, the completion of upper secondary school for girls is around 60%, a 25% drop compared to the completion of primary school (The Borgen Project). Girls bear the heaviest burden in these rural communities. Their families need them to bring in extra income for the household, and do not have the funds for uniforms, textbooks, or supplies (The Borgen Project).

Multiple factors contribute to this difference in education, not the least of which is poverty. When families are not able to put food on the table nor a roof over their heads, education cannot be a priority. Over 22% of the population in Paraguay live in poverty, and over 10% live in extreme poverty (UN Women Report). This results in over 50% of families living in rural areas living in inadequate housing and 45% of children at risk of malnutrition and hunger (The Borgen Project: Poverty, The Borgen Project: Hunger).

Understanding the context in which these young women and girls, these communities, exist is crucial to understanding why we do what we do.

Our mission in Paraguay has grown in scope and scale over time. Now, we place a greater emphasis on supporting the “whole girl” by meeting her where she is at. This may look different for every girl and family we help. Each need is unique.

For many, this may mean working with our Ambassadors in Paraguay to build them a shelter or a bathroom. It might also include a fully-funded or partial scholarship that covers her student lunch account, to ensure she has something to eat, and covers the cost of hygiene items, school supplies, and uniforms.

One of the very first things we ever did as an organization in 2017 was build Maria Lujan, our Program Manager in Paraguay, a bathroom. Meeting a bigger need has always been at the very core of GSWW. When we meet this need, whatever that need looks like, we can set that young girl up for success on the soccer field, in the classroom, and in her future.

Doing more has become the essence of who we are as an organization.

So…why Paraguay?

Because that’s where it all comes back to. That’s where Girls Soccer Worldwide became Girls Soccer Worldwide. The community of Coronel Bogado holds a special place in our hearts.

All GSWW is and does is Walter’s 30-year-old promise fulfilled. And we’re just getting started!

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