MISSOULA – The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana seeks 18 Montana adults and students to serve as citizen ambassadors to Peru in a U.S. Department of State sports diplomacy program focusing on soccer.

The program entails an all-expenses-paid, seven-day exchange to Peru next May 14-20 and the opportunity to work with Peruvian soccer professionals during a reciprocal exchange in Montana in July. Funded by the Sports Diplomacy division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the exchange uses soccer to empower women and girls in Peru.

The Mansfield Center exchange program teaches soccer coaches, organizers and players how to popularize a sport within marginalized populations, including people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and those from rural communities. The team from Montana will share ways that soccer can be used as a tool for social inclusion and a way to build confidence and community engagement while promoting technical proficiency among coaches, administrators and officials. While working with a local nonprofit that engages women and youth in soccer, the delegation also will learn about the culture and history of Peru by traveling to the capital city of Lima, as well as a smaller community.

            “Sports can be an incredible way to develop confidence, discipline, leadership and becoming a part of a larger community,” said Kelsey Stamm Jimenez, Mansfield Center program director. “Women and girls, especially indigenous people and those with disabilities, can be isolated and face barriers toward engaging in social life. Our program is designed to give coaches and players the skills not just to improve soccer abilities, but to empower their teams and help them succeed both on and off the field.”

The Mansfield Center was selected to implement this program due to its expertise in sports and youth, both areas of emphasis in Montana and at UM. The first of four exchanges was held in El Salvador, with a focus on engaging at-risk youth through basketball.

The U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy division was created to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people, as well as peaceful relations, around the world through sports. The division’s use of sports as a platform exposes international exchange participants to U.S. culture while providing them with an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and peers. In turn, Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from other countries face. Sports Diplomacy has involved tens of thousands of people from more than 100 countries in sports exchanges.

The International Sports Programming Initiative cooperative agreement is one of six State Department grants currently run by the Mansfield Center to benefit the community and state.

“Federally funded opportunities like the Sports Diplomacy exchange allow us to fulfill the Mansfield Center’s mandate to engage people from across our state in international experiences,” 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.
Applications for the soccer exchange are open through Tuesday, Jan 1. Those interested in applying should visit https://www.umt.edu/mansfield/default.php or contact Stamm Jimenez at kelsey.stamm@umontana.edu or 406-243-2838.