Location and general information
Lithuanian society has faced various challenges over the last few years:
- Deterioration in the population’s psychological health following the pandemic;
- Large number of refugees arriving from Africa and the Middle east in 2021 after the border with Belarus opened;
- Tensions with Russian community and migration from Ukraine as a result of the war in Ukraine;
- Economic hardship, inflation and increased poverty.
In Lithuania, football is not accessible to vulnerable children and young adults because of the high fees and too much focus on results.
Vilnius Social Club has run the football programme since 2013. The main goal is not sporting results, but a qualitative change in the life of each participant:
- To help develop children and young people to develop skills and qualities that will help them to overcome various life challenges, such as independence, communication skills and the ability to work as a team, take responsibility, solve conflicts, find compromises and come to agreement.
- To improve the participants’ social and sporting skills, thereby expanding the options available to teenagers in the future.
Principles of the project:
- Football is just a tool: we want participants in the football programme to grow as individuals, and we aim to create a space in which children and young people can take part in regular and long-term activities at their own pace. Playing football helps them to learn to be on time and stay until the end, to work as a team, to manage their emotions, to deal constructively with stressful and challenging situations, to win and lose, to interact with peers and adults, and to reflect on their experiences.
- Equal opportunities for all: we encourage diversity among the children who attend our football sessions, who include girls and boys, quieter and louder children, those of different nationalities, and weaker and stronger individuals.
- Empowering performance: we constantly reflect on our work and try to be clear about the limits of our responsibilities. Instead of playing the role of saviour, we choose to collaborate with our partners, provide them with feedback and work together to make a positive difference in the lives of children and young people.
Participants of the football activities are divided into different age groups, with each having a two-hour session once a week. The sessions are structured as follows:
- Informal activities (free play): 20 minutes
- Opening circle: 10 minutes
- Football exercises: 30 minutes
- Football match: 30 minutes
- Discussion (circle): 30 minutes
Around 120 people aged from 7 to 20, with different experiences and facing different challenges, participate in the football programme each year. They all find a space where they are accepted regardless of their behaviour, financial situation or physical ability.
Additional activities include collaborating with families, one-to-one communication, work with individuals, activities during school holidays, and a summer camp.