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Homeless World Cup, a charity that helps homeless people through football, is to roll out a new website that is translatable into different languages to extend its reach across the globe.
The social enterprise’s goal is to help homeless people in 74 countries gain confidence and self-esteem by taking part in football tournaments.
“We started the Homeless World Cup in 2003 because we very much believed in the power of football,” says Mel Young, the organisation’s founder and president.
“Simply what we’re doing is getting homeless people or marginalised people on the street and introducing them to playing football, and as a result of that, we see some changes in their lives.”
Homeless World Cup operates through a network of partners worldwide to offer homeless people a route from the street to a better life, tackling issues such as housing, employment and drugs.
The charity’s responsive website is its main channel to spread the word about its mission and how its partners are changing lives around the world.
By translating the website into local languages in the regions in which it operates, Homeless World Cup hopes to boost engagement in the charity’s work, as people are more likely to interact with a site is in their native language.
“We are global, and because of that, the whole online presence we have is very important,” says Young. “The website is an integral part of what we are doing in terms of telling our story – we are global and the web is global.
“If you speak English, it’s OK, but for other people who can’t, it’s not. So we always had this challenge of how we could get people to look at the website in different languages, so they could respond to our partners in the language of their country.”
Finding the right partner
The move to translate the website began following Homeless World Cup’s work in Mexico, where 28,000 homeless people are engaged with the project, but most do not speak English.
“If the website was in Spanish, they would visit the website – otherwise they don’t look at it all,” says Young.
The charity hopes that “hundreds and thousands of people” will look at the website more if it is available in their native language.
Homeless World Cup is implementing the roll-out in three stages, beginning with putting a test website online to see how regions respond, followed by a roll-out in different regions and languages.
Each region must be considered and adapted differently, says Young. For example, Nigeria is a tough region for Homeless World Cup to reach because most of the people it wants to target use slow, dial-up internet access. Meanwhile, China does not even acknowledge that it has a homelessness problem.
Cortex has provided development of the translatable website and advice about how to approach each region free of charge, but has treated the charity as a paying client.
Young explains: “What I find is that some companies or businesses are up for making genuine contributions.”
The third stage of the roll-out will be to tweak the website region by region, taking account of outliers such as Norway, where a number of people speak English and read English websites.
“The only way you are going to solve these problems is when everyone comes together, all parts of society, to solve a problem,” says Young.
“What they have got in terms of the translation service is just brilliant, and for our purposes it will really help us.”
Technology to enable everyone
Young emphasises the importance of using the website and technology to get homeless people on board with the project.
Although many do not think homeless people can use the internet, Young says that, in fact, many use free internet access to find hostels, food and sometimes jobs.
This is especially true of younger people, who may also have a smartphone, and may forgo food for technology or internet access.
“You would be surprised that although people are homeless and on the streets, they can get themselves to internet cafes, and so on,” says Young. “You think to yourself ‘this is mad’, but actually that’s what teenagers do anyway, regardless of whether they’re homeless or not.”
Young also says social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with individuals from the streets.
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“The kind of exchanges they get into when they use social media with other players is actually something that’s very very strong,” he says.
“Because they are aware of websites and online, they may be on the street but they have an awareness about the way the world works.”
Homeless World Cup’s next event is its annual tournament in Glasgow in July, when it will use training sessions and group meetups to “create order” in the lives of disadvantaged people.
Men’s and women’s teams
The charity invites homeless people to compete in its football tournaments and join one of its 48 men’s teams or 16 women’s teams.
Young says football is a “wonderful tool” to involve large groups of people, boost self-esteem and confidence in the homeless and break bad habits that often result from a “chaotic” homeless life.
“The critical thing for us is that people can quickly get sucked into that world,” says Young. “The challenge is then how to get them out of that world and back into society.
“The first port of call to us would be through the website. This piece of work is extremely important to us in the next stage of our development.”