MISSOULA – The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana is accepting applications for 20 Montana professionals and students to serve as citizen ambassadors to El Salvador in a U.S. Department of State youth sports diplomacy program.
The program uses basketball to bridge cultures, and it includes an all-expenses-paid, eight-day exchange in El Salvador this July, as well as the opportunity to work with youth and adult sports mentors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in Montana in April 2019.
Those interested in applying should call Kelsey Stamm Jimenez, the Mansfield Center program manager, at 406-243-2838 by Sunday, April 15.
Funded by the Sports Diplomacy Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the Mansfield Center project uses sports to support at-risk youth in Central America. The team from Montana will draw from its expertise to share ways that sports play a role in youth development at the grassroots level, while promoting technical proficiency among coaches, administrators and officials. The program will help build the teamwork and self-discipline in youth that often lead to success in other aspects of their lives.
“Given the complex issues facing Salvadoran youth today, sports provide an ideal vehicle through which to find confidence and success,” said Stamm Jimenez. “This program helps youth develop important leadership skills and an understanding of the importance of academic success in determining routes to economic security and inclusion. Our program reaches both youth as well as the adults who provide mentorship, using basketball as a medium to develop life skills.”
The Montana team will experience both professional and cultural activities during its El Salvador exchange. While working with a local nonprofit organization that supports at-risk youth, the delegation also will learn about the culture and history of El Salvador by traveling to the capital city of San Salvador and historic city of Santa Ana in the western region of the country.
The U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy Division was created to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world through sports. Sports Diplomacy has involved tens of thousands of people from more than 100 countries in sports exchanges.
The El Salvador exchange is the first of four sports exchanges in this project for Latin America under the International Sports Programming Initiative cooperative agreement. In May 2019, the Mansfield Center will offer a soccer exchange in Peru that focuses on girls’ empowerment and indigenous culture, with external partners implementing the other two exchanges to support Mexico and Columbia. Those projects are currently open for bid by 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations through a competitive proposal process closing April 30.
The Mansfield Center is an established partner in Sports Diplomacy programming, having created similar exchanges in China and Laos.
“We are grateful to the U.S. Department of State for the opportunity to partner on these programs to help further the Mansfield Center’s mandate to engage people from across our state in global connections,” said Deena Mansour, Mansfield Center associate director.
UM’s Mansfield Center promotes better understanding of international relations and ethics in public affairs in the spirit of Sen. Mike Mansfield (1993-2001) and his wife and life partner, Maureen Hayes Mansfield. The center houses programs that promote global ties, leadership and ethics in public affairs – the core interests and hallmarks of Sen. Mansfield’s career.
For background information on the program, visit http://www.umt.edu/mansfield/internationalprograms/sports-diplomacy/default.php.