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“Football gives me different life”

© UNICEF Ukraine/2012/O.Ivanenko
Mariya’s passion is football

Fifteen-year-old Maria has seven siblings. She and her youngest brother always suffered from their father’s difficult temper. Masha, who fled from home on several occasions, identifies herself as an “extreme kid”. She enjoyed taking risks. She might run out of nowhere to cross the street in front of a passing car. Both her family and her school found dealing with her very difficult.

But now she is changing. They even entrust her with younger participants of extracurricular hobby groups that meet daily in the premises of the charitable foundation “Caritas Ukraine”. A psychologist and social workers were successful in redirecting Masha’s energy to “peaceful purposes” and toward developing her leadership skills.

In a matter of minutes, Masha can organize a journey to some nearby place, make up games and entertain kids so no one ever gets bored. Olha Lyashenko, the foundation’s psychologist, admits the traveller’s club and regular camping mini-trips are exclusively Masha’s idea and initiative. She was the one who recently initiated a park cleanup event, even though in earlier times she would through junk under her feet without even noticing it. According to the psychologist, Masha underwent serious changes: “She understood that she had the qualities of a true leader, and that other people – especially younger children – always took a leader as a role model. So she changed her attitudes. And we know that if Masha’s taking kids to the park, everything will be just fine. No one will be running across the street; Masha will pluck a kid by the sleeve or hold his hand”.

© UNICEF Ukraine/2012/O.Ivanenko
Mariya can’t imagine her life without football

Still, Masha’s biggest devotion and joy is football. She dreams about it. Combine her love of the game and her overwhelming energy, and you have Maria as one of the best players on the local team and its captain. When answering the question, “What does football give you?,” Masha, who is quite poised in communicating with strangers, said, “A different life”. Football for her is much more than sport. It is a way to forget about family problems and to let her boisterous energy out.

Masha has not decided yet on her future profession. As any teenager, she wants to do several things at a time and to accomplish them all. For example, she would like to become a child psychologist, and to master the hair designer’s profession, and to have several more occupations. But playing football is “always and forever” for her.

In Ukraine more than 11,000 children live in families where child abuse occurs, and over 90,000 adults were registered for committing domestic violence. UNICEF works with the government of Ukraine and NGOs to prevent and to reveal at early stages domestic violence, to provide rehabilitation support to children and adolescents who were exposed to violence or witnessed abuse, and services to parents who committed acts of violence. UNICEF helps to prevent putting children-victims of abuse into institutions and supports positive family environments.    



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