Let us introduce you to Lidya Jonas. Lidya is sixteen years old and plays in the girls team at Lengo Football Academy.
Lidya lives in Arusha, Tanzania with her mother and grandmother. Her father abandoned the family before Lidya was born. Lidya is in her first year of secondary school. Her favourite subject is biology and one day she would like to become a doctor.
When Lidya was in primary school, she would longingly watch the boys playing football in the evenings and having fun. ‘I had the same classes with the boys who were playing,’ says Lidya. ‘They were always talking about the games that they had, especially “away” games and how much they enjoyed it. I was jealous because as girls we didn’t have this.’
Lidya was among the 11 players to form the first girls football team at Lengo Football Academy. ‘The best thing about playing football is that it’s a team sport,’ she says. ‘The best thing about playing football is that it’s a team sport,’ says Lidya (16 years old). ‘You play together and win together and lose together. And also it gives me an opportunity to have fun and meet other people my own age and make friends within Lengo and also with other people that we play with.’
Lidya’s family was initially reluctant to let her play football. Her mum and grandma felt football was an activity for boys. However, the head coaches at Lengo in Tanzania were able to meet with Lidya’s family to explain the benefits of playing football, and the potential to develop life skills both on and off the football field. Lengo has a strong philosophy of working not only with the children but their families and communities to improve lives.
Importantly, Lengo pays for each player’s school fees, ensuring each child has the opportunity to continue their education while participating in football training. This is something that Lidya’s mum could not afford to do on her own. Girls who miss out on school instead spend their days working very hard on home chores. They can also end up being married and becoming pregnant as young as 15 years old.
Today, Lidya’s mum Eva observes, ‘My daughter has courage and confidence to try different things. She is very serious in planning her schedule so she can participate in everything. She plans her home chores, school and football. She’s gained this confidence of public speaking in front of people. Right now she’s become very focused and believes in her dreams and goals. And she’s become a very good influence in bringing change for other girls in the community. She’s making them believe in their dreams.’
Lidya says, ‘I’ve learned a lot of things from playing football with Lengo. First of all it’s about teamwork. This makes me realise the importance of working together with other people in order to fulfil different goals. I’ve learnt the importance of hard work, to work very hard and to push myself to succeed in everything that I want to do in life. I’ve learnt to be myself and follow my instincts. Lengo has taught me to try, to be creative on and off the football field and to respect my thoughts because everybody has his or her qualities in thinking and in doing. Apart from that, Lengo has taught me how to play football with passion, freedom and joy.’
When you make a donation to Lengo Football Academy you will be providing more youth just like Lidya with the opportunity to continue going to school five days a week, participate in football training and competitions with Lengo’s trained coaches, and develop lifelong skills in teamwork, persistence, confidence and self-worth.
Lidya and her mother would like to thank all the donors in Australia for their support. ‘Their financial support always arrives when it’s most needed,’ says Lidya. ‘It’s been needed for a long time. Their support has a huge value to us.’
Written by Biheng Zhang