Sometimes the way out of violence is a 90-foot run.
If nothing else, kids in the United States and Nicaragua have one thing in common: they love baseball.
That’s right, America’s pastime is also the official national sport of Nicaragua. And what’s not to love? When baseball season rolls around each year, it brings warm weather, fresh air, exercise and camaraderie with it. Even as a spectator, it’s hard to complain about the perks of hotdogs and peanuts at the ballpark.
In Nicaragua, it’s common to see kids playing baseball with sticks and rocks. (When you don’t have enough money for equipment, you have to be creative with your resources.) It’s no surprise that kids hurling rocks at one another is a dangerous hobby; but for the love of the game, they keep playing.
“Having confidence in ourselves became the solution. We all became involved, with one mindset.”Nicaragua resident
Despite the lack of funding, children as young as 15 have been playing baseball in Llanito, Nicaragua, for decades. But it wasn’t cheap, and conditions for players were less than desirable.
When Llanito and surrounding communities first began playing, there were two sole leaders of the 14-team group. The two men in charge had complete control, leaving little room for opinions and input from the players. And on top of that, pricey annual fees kept many people in the community from participating. Naturally, the players became frustrated with the conditions with which they were confined to play in; and those frustrations soon turned into aggression.
And it didn’t stop with the players. Eventually it brought tension to the entire region, and family and friends were afraid to attend games.
Carlos, a local resident, has been playing baseball on the Llanito team for years. He endured what became incessant violence from the other players and struggled financially to maintain his membership. But what was most concerning was that he was afraid for the life of his son. He was willing to do anything to ensure his safety.
So when a member of the Outreach International field staff came to Llanito, Carlos observed something he thought might just bring the league out of the depths of turmoil.
Families in the Llanito community began opening up and strategizing new ways to improve their living conditions together. Taking the lead as invested members of Llanito, they began overcoming long-time obstacles. They were seeking out ways to fix their roads, find clean water and feed their malnourished children. And as they continued to work together, they became self-reliant. They were working hard and looking to one another for support.
Having seen Outreach’s involvement in the community, Carlos was confident that if they could just incorporate the same approach into the baseball league, they might have a solution. And so the journey began.
After talking with other players of the team, they agreed to start their own fundraisers for league fees. Strategizing as a team, they decided to create community raffles and sell food to raise money. After much time and teamwork, they started to see results. And the more they worked together, the better results they saw.
Living in a close-knit region, other teams quickly caught on to this approach and it spread like wildfire. Soon, several teams began working together to fundraise. The community and its camaraderie became more important than the sport, and the tension slowly faded.
“Having confidence in ourselves became the solution. We all became involved, with one mindset,” said Carlos.
Today, the gang-like fighting has come to an end. The teams are getting along so well that they are even able to intermix players from teams all over the region.
“I am proud of this team,” said Carlos. “Thanks to our efforts, we’ve achieved success, and we’ll continue to share this approach with future generations.”