Empowering Vulnerable Girls Through Sports

Last November we launched our Play & Sports program with 80 girls from the slums of Pune, India. The 10-day soccer program was not just a one-off event; 40 of the girls have been moving from the slums to the local secondary school’s soccer field every week! And seven girls have recruited to play on the state team!

The Play & Sports program does more than just give the girls an opportunity to play. It empowers them through success and connections to local mentors and champions. These connections lead to opportunities to move beyond the isolation caused by poverty into thriving childhoods and a path to a hope filled future.

This November we are again bringing girls from U.S. secondary schools and colleges to conduct soccer clinics, partner with the girls from Pune, create Global Citizens and enhance all of the girls opportunities to thrive.

Limitless Child International Becomes Member of IPA

We are now an official member of International Play Association (IPA). This is their mission statement:

“That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”

It's the perfect fit for LCI's work!

Children Design Their Own Play and Learning Centers

When we learned of Janwaar Castle’s philosophy of empowering children through self-designed play, we knew we had our newest India bases non-profit partner! In a remote village where children were experiencing the struggles of the cast system, Janwaar Castle created a skate board park, library and an upcoming playground.

With our philosophy matching Janwaar’s, we have partnered with them to support the new playground, help break down the conflicts of castes and give children the opportunity to thrive.

Welcoming Jesse Eaves, our Newest Member of our Board of Directors

On April 1st, Jesse Eaves, Policy and Government Relations Director, joined our Board of Directors.  Jesse has spent the past decade working on strengthening child protection systems around the world. During that time, he has worked extensively to combat and prevent labor and sexual exploitation of children in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. One of Jesse’s focus areas is the impact of conflict on children and their communities and working to foster long-term stability and resilience for children in volatile contexts.

All of us at Limitless Child are thrilled to have Jesse help guide us in our work to ensure vulnerable children move from just surviving to thriving.

Launching our First Mobile Play and Learning Center

When working with our non-profit partners and children living isolated lives in orphanages and slums, we found that while they received a basic education, they lacked the opportunities to connect with their local communities, their peers and those who would be their mentors and champions.  Rather than use resources to build new schools we used a small amount of funds to build Mobile Play and Learning Centers.  Instead of requiring the children to travel to a new education center the Mobile units travel to where the children are now! 

The Mobile units give these vulnerable children learning opportunities through play and STEM education.

After our pilot program which launched this summer, we will be expanding the program to include Pune and Mumbai with regularly scheduled visits to the places where children live; orphanages and slums.

LCI Presents at International Conference in India

 
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Limitless Child Executive Director, Jenny Mills, will be heading back to India in March to present at the International Conference on Nurturing Global Mental Health – A Paradigm Shift, hosted by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University School of Social Work.

Jenny's presentation is titled "The Role of Play in Creating Thrivability in Vulnerable Children" and links directly to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal #3, which is to promote mental health as an integral part of human development. The conference will highlight the importance of mental health care and the need for evidence-based intervention across all spheres.

The global conference, held jointly with the University of Buffalo, has the following objectives:

  •  Nurture global mental health through a holistic approach,
  •  foster mental health in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals,
  •  identify the gaps and possible interventions in the existing mental health facilities,
  •  address the emerging mental health issues as a result of societal change and development and
  •  understand the role of spirituality and evidence based-practices for enhancement of mental health.

The full paper will be published and available on our website in March.

 

LCI Welcomes all to Participate in "Dandelions Tonight"

 

Are you a member of our community?  A volunteer?  A donor?  If you are reading this then you most likely are connected to us.  But do you know other members of our expanding community?  Do you want to know where your time, interest and donations go?  Did we hear a ‘yes’?  If so, join us, your community and our partners at Dandelions Tonight! 

Dandelions Tonight is a 30-minute, bi-monthly video conference (or conference call for the introverts among us!) where we will share our goings on, discuss your areas of interest with you and hear brief updates from our partners hear in the U.S. and around the world.

Dandelions Tonight is set for the 3rd Tuesday of each month (next up – Feb date).  We promise to make it an enjoyable time together and keep it to 30-minutes so you can enjoy family time or binge watch the Bachelor!  

Please RSVP by using the form below.

Hope to see or hear from you soon! 

Tom

 

Name *
Name
 

Driving Education and Play – Literally!

Most children leave home each day and head off to school to learn, play and connect with their friends.  At Limitless Child we are turning that model on its head!  Starting in March our Mobile Play and Learning Center will ‘go on the road’ and visit orphanages, child care centers and impoverished communities.  We are bringing play and learning to where they are.

Coby Unger and the team that designed and built the Mobile Play and Learning Center

Coby Unger and the team that designed and built the Mobile Play and Learning Center

In June we will begin 2-3 week mobile programs so that children can take a ‘deep dive’ into the makers world of building, problem solving and creation.  After the summer program runs its course the children will be connected to local makers spaces such as Fab Lab Hubs (a part of the MIT network).  These connections will enable the students to continue learning the high-demand fields of engineering, design and manufacturing.

Stay tuned and follow our Mobile Play and Learning Centers journey around India.

Dressing Down for Kids

This month the students at North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Maine chose to donate $5.00 to our work for vulnerable children in India.  There $5.00 gave them permission to avoid another day in a school uniform and ‘dress down’ for the day!  Over 80 students joined our growing community of supports and in total donated $840! And get this – they are doing it again next month!

Thank you North Yarmouth Academy and go Panthers!

 

A World at Play

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the International Play Association!   IPA is an association of non-profits from over 50 countries all of whom are dedicated to making a child’s right to play a reality.  By joining our colleagues, we can learn, teach and develop new collaborative programs.  Stay tuned and we’ll let you know Limitless Child and IPA work together to serve vulnerable children around the world! Jenny

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the International Play Association!   IPA is an association of non-profits from over 50 countries all of whom are dedicated to making a child’s right to play a reality.  By joining our colleagues, we can learn, teach and develop new collaborative programs.  Stay tuned and we’ll let you know Limitless Child and IPA work together to serve vulnerable children around the world!

Jenny

Sarah Boisvert Appointed LCI Board Chairperson

With great enthusiasm and appreciation we announce the election of Sarah Boisvert as Board of Directors Chairperson.  Sarah has been intimately involved with Limitless Child since the beginning remains the key to our Make It Matter program including prosthetics and mobile learning.  Sarah has graciously agreed to lead Limitless Child and our board through her passionate vision, decades of entrepreneurial experience, sound governance policies and fundraising network.   

Sarah helping out at our first Hand-a-Thon in Portland, ME.

Sarah helping out at our first Hand-a-Thon in Portland, ME.

Sarah has worked in digital fabrication including 3D Printing and laser micro machining since 1986.  Since the sale of Potomac Photonics in 1999, a digital fabrication company she co-founded, Sarah has served as their Chief 3D Printing Officer.  In 2012 she founded Fab Lab Hub, a non-profit resource for the MIT Fab Lab Network through which she produces the annual DigiFab Conference and other convenings of the tech and engineering communities.   

All of us at Limitless Child extend our congratulations and gratitude to Sarah on her election to Board Chair. 

Jenny Mills

Executive Director

Playing it Forward in India

Over the Thanksgiving recess, three South Portland High School students travelled to India with us to bring the game of soccer to 40 girls who live in the slum of Janata Vasant in Pune, India.  Over several days of morning and evening sessions, senior Amber McKenzie and freshmen Brooklynn Ortiz and Maggie Cole brought the game of soccer to girls whose lives are challenged by poverty, social constraints, gender based violence and a lack of access to many of the most basics elements of childhood such as play and sport.  

Isabella Ucci, a junior at Maine College of Art, Finn Ducker, the assistant soccer coach at the University of New England, Jill Greenlaw, a Maine based photographer and Jenny Mills, Limitless Child’s Executive Director rounded out our team. The team’s commitment was not only evident during their 9-days in India, but also when they each raised $2,000 to cover their travel costs. 

Play Is Not Optional, It’s Fundamental

Utilizing sports and play to improve the quality of life for children in vulnerable communities is part of Limitless Child’s core mission.  Sports and recreation are essential to children’s health and well-being by promoting the development of creativity, imagination, self-confidence and emotional strength. These are not just the beliefs of LCI. The world community agrees and has declared the right to play as a basic human right for all children (Article 31 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child).

In India, Limitless Child partners with ASHA (Action for Self-Reliance, Hope and Awareness), a highly respected organization based in Pune.  For over 30 years ASHA has provided crisis intervention, counseling and empowerment to abused women and girls.   With an ever-increasing number of domestic violence, dowry deaths, child brides and other forms of violence, ASHA’s caring social workers are greatly needed by the communities they serve.   Much of their work focuses on prevention and empowerment of girls from a young age.  Limitless Child’s Play it Forward Peer Soccer Program is a natural complement to this work.

The goal of this trip was to teach soccer to young girls.  But soccer was not the end game.  It was just the opening move.  Most importantly these 42 young girls were empowered.  They were filled with laughter, energy and hope.    They met kids and adults from Pune who served as examples of what their life could be.  And with the girls from South Portland they connected on a personal level - in a way that no one could have imagined. 

40 Became 44

Each day Amber, Brooklynn, Maggie and Isabella worked with a group of the same 10 girls.   They ranged in age from 9 to 17.  They worked together in morning and afternoon soccer sessions. They shared snacks and meals together.  They laughed, sang songs and made hand-crafted gifts for each other.  They honored each other at the banquet on the last night.  And when it was time to head home, they shared their tears together. 

Take The Bacon

The soccer clinic consisted of morning and afternoon sessions where Finn and the Limitless Peer Coaches ran the girls through basic drills and scrimmages with a few games thrown into the mix (Take The Bacon was the definitive favorite).  What started out as shyness on all sides quickly transformed into “good job” and “great try”.  Miscommunications were met with laughter, patience and the surprising ability of the young girls to translate for the Americans.  By day 2 the shyness had been replaced by excitement and a hunger to communicate.

The peer coaches each connected in their own unique way, which was a joy to watch as the girls truly bonded.  While our time together was brief, the relationships that developed were profound and the desire to stay connected genuine and completely mutual. 

A banquet held on night #2 of the program brought everyone together at a local restaurant.  The Limitless team had prepared for the night by purchasing traditional Indian outfits, which were a huge hit with the girls!  Perhaps my favorite memory from the trip was the moment we saw all 40 of the girls arrive at the restaurant.  They were absolutely glowing with excitement and each had dressed up in their very best outfit!  Compliments, conversation and laughter flowed as we all enjoyed a traditional Thali meal.  The peer coaches eagerly showed photos of home and family to their new friends and before leaving for the night each Peer Coach was presented with a keepsake box, beautifully hand-painted in traditional Marathi style by the girls.

Farewell, For Now

Our last day was punctuated by certificates of achievement and cards hand-made by the peer coaches for each participant.  There were then a million hugs and declarations of friendship and as we watched the girls drive away, unexpected tears brought on by the depth of emotion. 

Our four Peer Coaches from South Portland have been profoundly impacted.  So much so that they are already planning their fundraising so they can go back and be with the girls from Pune again.  And the girls in Pune found that they can indeed have a thriving childhood.  They are all but demanding that Limitless Child and ASHA give them the opportunity to play soccer with the local coaches and kids every week.  So needless to say, that is just what we are doing.

We will be heading back to Pune within the next year with a new group of Peer Coaches and a team of new and excited young women as we continue to Play it Forward

In addition to the soccer clinic our Peer Coached traveled to the old city of Agra and visited the Taj Mahal, an absolute wonder of the world! We also explored the Aga Khan Palace in Pune where Ghandi was imprisoned with his wife and chief secretary during India’s fight for Independence from British rule.  Traveling on the back of a moped and walking through open-air markets provided a glimpse into the day to day life in the Janata Vasant slum community. The coaches loved our visits to 2 orphanages, especially SOS children’s village in Delhi where we spent hours playing Duck-Duck-Goose, coloring and having a hilarious dance party with the children.  These visits also provided an opportunity to learn about the role of orphanages and societal issues which favor the birth of a son.  An afternoon spent with the ASHA staff provided an in-depth discussion about issues relating to domestic violence and how women and children are impacted as well as the programs which ASHA has developed in response.  We accomplished what we set out to do, empower and connect the girls through soccer. The fact that we did so, immersed in a culture so vastly different from our own, made this a truly life changing learning experience for everyone involved.

The Journey Begins

We have our team ready to go to India in November and I couldn't be more proud of our South Portland girls or more excited about the impact we will have on the girls in India and they on us!  Four local high school soccer players (Amber, Brooklyn,  Isabella and Margaret along with University of Maine soccer coach Finn Bucker), are meeting to put together their clinic routines, practicing their skills, booking flights and of most importance - doing some shopping for clothes flavored with the culture of India. 

                        Here's the Limitless Team!  Amber is missing from the picture but she'll be on the plane on the 17th!

                        Here's the Limitless Team!  Amber is missing from the picture but she'll be on the plane on the 17th!

We will be leaving on November 17 and returning on the 27th.  All of us will miss celebrating Thanksgiving with our families but connecting with 42 young girls in India trumps turkey any day!  

The goals of our time in India are to educate Amber, Brooklyn, Isabella, Margaret and Finn on Indian culture, women's rights, child protection and the challenges young girls face as they move from institutions to independent living. The most important goal for our 42 girls in India is to empower them by giving them hope, connecting them to their local and global communities and providing them with opportunities to play and have a lot of fun!  

The goals of our time in India are to educate Amber, Brooklyn, Isabella, Margaret and Finn on Indian culture, women's rights, child protection and the challenges young girls face as they move from institutions to independent living. The most important goal for our 42 girls in India is to empower them by giving them hope, connecting them to their local and global communities and providing them with opportunities to play and have a lot of fun!  

To follow our journey just visit our News & Events page, read our the Limitless Newsletter or check us out on Facebook.   

Thanks to you all for your support!  We hope that you will join in and support our South Portland and India girls by clicking here.  

Thanks again.

   Jenny

Jenny Mills, Executive Director   

50 Years and Still Giving

A few weeks ago, Tom and I spent some time with two of our angels, their families and friends.  We all got together to celebrate Mary and John Cooper's 50th Wedding Anniversary!  Witnessing their love as they renewed their vows is one of those life moments that stays with you forever.  And get this... Mary and John asked that instead of gifts that everyone make a donation to Limitless Child.  Knowing them the way I do, their generosity was not a surprise because for 50 years they have given to each other, to their families, friends and to children in need. They have improved the lives of thousands.  They are true heros and our angels. 

Mary and John's financial support is the reason that I was able to launch Limitless Child, build our team and service children living in the orphanages and slums of India.  Their continued support along with that of so many others touches me and our team more than they could ever know.

Thank you Mary and John!  You will always have our love and appreciation.

Jenny

Bringing Learning and Play to Underserved Children

The pilot program for our Mobile Learning and Play Center will take place the second week of September.  Our Mobile Learning and Play Center is a retrofitted rickshaw filled with STEM related learning play opportunities to children in orphanages and vulnerable children living in the impoverished communities.  The curriculum for the Mobile Center incorporates age appropriate elements such as 3D printing, laser cutting, circuit building along with basic education. 

Our pilot launch includes a weekly rotation of 3 orphanages and communities.  Not only is the Mobile Center a unique platform but also is unique in that it integrates children in orphanages with their local communities with a goal of establishing permanent relationships between the children and caring adults.  This type of integration can help move children from the orphanage to local families and towards independent living.

Our thanks to Makers Asylum (a local technology association in India) and Coby Unger (an industrial design artist) for helping us to launch our Mobile Learning and Play Center.

You can follow the Mobile Center right here on our News and Events page, our monthly newsletter and Facebook page.

We are very excited to bring our unique, cutting edge and 'cool' Mobile Learning and Play Center to vulnerable children.  We'll report on our progress so be sure to follow along.

Jenny

Jenny Mills, Executive Director

How We Protect the Children We Serve

Much has been written lately about 'orphan tourism' and detrimental effects of bringing U.S. citizens as volunteers to orphanages in developing countries.  In order to prevent these negative effects and protect children and communities, we integrate best practices into our policies, procedures and programs.

These policies are directly impacting our upcoming Peer Sports program in India.  The program utilizes volunteer high school soccer coaches and players who will work directly with vulnerable children.  However our program is designed to integrate children in orphanages with their local peers, adults leaders from local communities and provides opportunities for children to elevate their self-esteem, connect to caring adults and begin the process of moving from the orphanage to local families or independent living.

You can read more about the best practices we use.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

UN Human Rights Declaration

The Child Safe Movement

U.S. Action Plan for Children in Adversity

Better Care Network: Better Volunteering, Better Care

 

Jenny

Jenny Mills, Executive Director

 

Girls Empowering Girls - Limitless Soccer in India

We all know that girls have the power to make positive change in the world. Especially when they use their talents to empower other young girls.  So this coming November, Limitless Child International, Coach Jeff Selser and members of the South Portland High School Girls Soccer team will travel to India, share the joy of soccer and empower young girls in India to live a thriving childhood.  As part of our Peer Sports & Play Program, students will teach young girls the basics of soccer, learn about the country and culture of India, make new friends and change lives forever. 

Here are some of the highlights that will empower not only the girls in India, but also the young women from the South Portland High School Girl's Soccer Team.

Sessions on the following topics will be presented by LCI Board Member and ED of ASHA, Minal Dani, MSW:

• Children’s rights

• Child trafficking

• Girls empowerment

• Child welfare in India

learning visits will include:

• A girls’ empowerment center

• Three orphanages

• A local police center

Cultural education designed to expose students to Indian culture and history will include in the following:

• A leader-lead tour of Mumbai

• A traditional India dinner

• Exploration of Jaipur: The Pink City

• A trip to Aga Khan Palace

• A visit to a local housing district

Jenny

- Jenny Mills, Executive Director

 

 

Doing Good the Right Way

If you are going to do it right you need a group of leaders who support your mission, provide expert guidance and the oversight and accountability we need to run a transparent, ethical and effective charity.  In addition to adhering to the laws and regulations in all of the countries in which we work, our board governs Limitless Child International using in part the guidelines and practices of the National Council of Nonprofits and the Maine Association of Nonprofits.  

Whenever there is a meeting of the board of directors, we'll let you know so that you can rest assured that Limitless Child is focused solely on the best interest of the children we serve and are doing so with high standards, transparent activities and well-governed operations.


July 2016

Our board met again this month to help us review our evolution, help us focus on our core competencies and capacity and provided needed oversight to all of our activities, including our financials.  We feel very confident in our plans for the second half of the year.


June 2016

Yet another board meeting was held in June.  It's been 9 months since we launched so the board helped us evaluate our work to date, reminded us that yes, we've accomplished a lot so far and are setting the stage for low-cost, high-impact, and professionally run programs for vulnerable children. 


December 2015

It's been 5 months since our legal formation and two since we had our soft launch... and we are still here!  That is in no small part to our committed board of directors.  We held our second formal board meeting, review our programs, year-end fundraising and plans for 2017. 


August 2015

It's official!  We held our first meeting of the our Board of Directors in August.  That might not sound like a big deal, but without Bylaws, Policies, board oversight and governance, we wouldn't be here!  Thank you to each of our board members! 

Learn more about these accomplished and passionate professionals here.