Bernardo M. Villegas
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Healing Children\'s Trauma Through Football

           Integral human development requires that initiatives to help the poor or underprivileged should not be limited to the physical or economic welfare of the beneficiaries.  There should be parallel efforts to address the psychological, moral and spiritual dimensions of the human being. Man does not live by bread alone.  Priests, nuns, pastors and ima   ms can do much to attend to the spiritual needs of the poor, especially the children.  There is also the psychological health that cannot be ignored, especially among victims traumatized by natural calamities such as the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that devastated vast regions in Eastern and Central Visayas last November 2013, leading to the deaths of more than 10,000 individuals. That is why I am glad that NGOs like the Dona Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Medical Foundation have focused on helping the children in these regions recover from the trauma of losing loved ones, homes and classrooms.  I am referring to the RTR Football Cup that was recently organized in Tacloban City.

          The RTR Football Cup was organized to introduce football to underprivileged youth who were traumatized by Typhoon Haiyan.  Playing football was a means of trauma counseling for these children, some of whom were left orphans after the natural disaster.  The project had the objective of creating an environment of hope, competitive sportsmanship, teamwork and camaraderie as a means to heal their broken spirits, minds and hearts.  The football clinic gave a unique opportunity to the children to engage in the sport of football, with the hope of their developing a real love and passion for the "beautiful game."  The first RTR Cup, held last May 17 to 25, 2014 in Leyte, was a first major step towards the creation of a sustainable grassroots football program dedicated to the creation and nurturing of a football training program for Leyte youth, and the creation of an "RTR Leyte All Stars"   Football Team and Scholarship Program.

          Eight teams form the following municipalities in Leyte participated in the first summer clinic:  Tacloban City, Palo, Babatngon, Tanauan, Tolosa, Sta. Fe, San Miguel and Alang-Alang.  These were the municipalities that suffered the worst casualties and greatest loss of lives.  Twelve children, aged 6 to 13, per team were selected from public school pupils in each municipality.    Two coaches were assigned to each team.  All in all, there about 24 coaches from the Philippines, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Ghana and Nigeria.  Volunteer coaches were provided by Team Socceroo; UP Football Team; UP Women's Football Team; and local coaches from Leyte.

          Summer clinics were held from May 11 to 24 at the following venues:  Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU) Tacloban field; EVSU Tanauan Field; and VSU Alang Alang field.  The clinics culminated with Tournament and Awarding Day on May 25 at the EVSU field in Tacloban City.  Each child was provided a playing kit which included RTR Cup jersey, football and rubber shoes.  All the children were fetched daily from their homes and brought to the field venues, together with their parents and local coordinators.  RTR covered all the expenses for logistics, airfare for coaches coming from Manila and elsewhere, land transport, communication facilities, food and water (daily) and all other materials and training equipment for the duration of the project.

          Participating organizations and individuals who supported this First RTR Football Cup were Medical Teams International; Team Socceroo FC Barcelona; UP Football Team; UP Women's Football  Team; Upsilon Sigma Phi; Eastern Visayas State University;  Visayas State University; Office of Congressman Martin Romualdez;  Mr. Philip Romualdez, and Banapple.   It is hoped that other localities in different regions of the Philippines that have also suffered from natural disasters would emulate the example of the RTR Foundation to make use of football as a means to heal the trauma of children who are usually the most vulnerable to psychological disorders resulting from the loss of lives and properties.  Such a humanitarian gesture could also have the very providential consequence of producing for  the Philippines future world class players in football, especially from the poor households in the provinces.  Some of the best football players from Latin America and Africa now playing in the ongoing World Cup games in Brazil were products of similar grassroots programs.  I would highly appreciate receiving notice of similar initiatives in other provinces, whether or not hit by natural calamities.  For comments, my email address is