The Results Are In…

Funded by the Benjamin Cohen Grant, L.A.C.E.S. partnered with Ball State University, School of Kinesiology to conduct external monitoring and evaluation to track the success of our programs, with the goal to assess whether we were meeting our intended outcomes. The results from the study are encouraging, noting that L.A.C.E.S. is effectively instilling key life values in the children and building their relationships with the coaches.

After six months, L.A.C.E.S. children could recall all of the lessons that emphasized self-esteem, respect, honesty, fair play and teamwork. The children were also applying those lessons to their daily lives.

“I know now it’s [stealing] not good. I need to change that if I want to be a better person in the future, so I wanna stop that.”

Most important, the children have realized that they, themselves, are worthy individuals and have a future.

“Who am I? I am important here, and worthy of respect.
Who am I, I am smart.
I am beauty, I am a child treat me with care,
I am a future leader send me to school,
I am a future engineer, respect me.”

In Liberia, staff members and coaches are a vital link to reintegrating the children into the community. Based upon surveys and interviews with L.A.C.E.S. children, the researchers remarked, “it is obvious that L.A.C.E.S. staff work hard to build quality relationships with the participants.” The research indicates that coaches are able to meaningfully engage with the children, which is critical in a successful mentorship role. For the children, the coaches emulate all the key values of L.A.C.E.S.

“He [coach] teach me good things, I like him [coach] because he is good.

In addition to interviewing L.A.C.E.S. children, researchers also complied data at the beginning and end of the soccer season relating to key life lessons imparted on the children in three L.A.C.E.S. communities. The research also examined how the L.A.C.E.S. program was impacting the children. Below is an overview of a few life lessons and their accompanying graphs, which track the pre and post reports.

Purpose

A child’s purpose can be defined as “a passion for self-identified interest, skill, or capacity that metaphorically lights a fire in an adolescent’s life, providing energy, joy, purpose and direction” (Scales, Benson & Roehlkepartain, 2011). Research suggests that the stronger a child’s purpose, the more likely he or she will thrive in development. L.A.C.E.S. children often lack a supportive home life, so nurturing their sense of purpose and providing support systems, such as mentors and coaches, can ensure their prosocial development, improving their quality of life.

The line represents the increase in children’s sense of purpose over the 7-month soccer season.

Attitude toward violence

In a country recovering from 14 years of civil war, it is crucial to decrease the tendency of violence in Liberia’s youth, while increasing the likelihood that they will solve disputes peacefully through communication. This can also reduce community tribal tensions as children age and become leaders in society.

The line represents the attitude toward violence in the three communities, and all show an overall decrease in the children’s attitudes toward violence from beginning to end of the soccer season.

As the research indicates, the L.A.C.E.S. program has proven successful at teaching key life skills and developing mentor relationships transforming the lives of the most vulnerable children in Liberia.

As one child stated, “I come mainly to be changed.”

References:

Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., & Roehlkepartain E.C. (2001). Adolescent Thriving: The Role of Spark, Relationships, and Empowerment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(3), 263-277.