SALT LAKE CITY — In light of the nearly 300 schoolgirls held hostage in Nigeria, some Utah girls are doing their part to help through “soccer diplomacy.”
Hanna Peterson and Kylie Miles play soccer competitively for their junior high schools in Logan and Park City. They took a trip to the southwestern part of Nigeria in March to play soccer with girls there. Osun state in Nigeria is hundreds of miles from where Boko Haram reportedly kidnapped hundreds of girls. But they feel the impact of the culture in the area, where currently girls are discouraged from playing soccer.
“(The girls) see what we’re doing and that we can play soccer and it gives them the courage and stuff to actually go do it,” Peterson said.
Peterson and Miles are part of a nonprofit organization called Bridges to America. The group works to provide supplies for health and education, and it's also working on something bigger.
“We are going to go back and actually physically build a school,” Kylie Miles said.
Adam Miles, founder of Bridges to America, says he knows the odds they face as violence and cultural barriers loom. He believes even simple activities — such as playing soccer — can make a big difference in breaking down those barriers.
“And fearlessly move forward, even in the face of groups like Boko Haram that says directly to people like me, to people like us, ‘Save-A-Thon for Africa, this soccer academy you want to build, that is Western education, and it’s a sin, and anyone who gets involved in that will be kidnapped or killed,’ ” Adam Miles said.
Kylie Miles and Peterson plan to continue playing soccer, and they hope that playing with the girls in Nigeria will empower them to follow their dreams.
“My main goal is just to make them smile and to show them the world loves them,” Kylie Miles said.