Monica Liyau impacting lives through table tennis

Still facing one of the biggest global challenges due to Covid-19, we all must work together to recover as soon as possible. Recently, UN Women informed in a Policy Brief that gender equality is facing a step backwards due to the pandemic and encourages governments and different organisations to actively “build back better”.

Therefore, we answer UN Women’s call retaking our “Inspirational Women Series”, which already spoke with Ms. Hajera Kajee, current ITTF Gender Commissioner, and Sarah Hanffou, founder of Ping Sans Frontieres and ITTF Foundation’s ambassador.

Now, we would like to introduce Monica Liyau from Peru, founder of NGO “Impactando Vidas” and one of the 2020 TT Dream Building Fund project winners. Monica’s story in table tennis began at the age of seven. Her father was a table tennis player and the whole family attended the “Regatas Lima” club every Sunday. Thus, her passion for our sport was born.

Debut in international tournaments

She began to train regularly and participated in tournaments. Her efforts were paid off and she qualified to her first international tournament, Latin American Championships in Mexico, representing her country. She was only 8 years old and the youngest player in the tournament, but her age was no obstacle to be on the podium and to enjoy such a wonderful experience.

She confessed that having coaches from China, Japan and Europe taught her discipline that marked her successful sport career. Her most important achievements are Peru’s National Champion, South American champion, Latin American champion, Pan American medallist, I Division Swedish Professional League Champion and Olympian in Seoul 1988.

Despite the hard times and titles, what Monica points out more about her table tennis career is the intercultural experience and resilience:

“I really enjoyed wonderful experiences that helped me from a very young age to mould my personality and meet so many people from different cultures, which helped me to be extroverted, sociable and to have the ability to overcome the obstacles during my life.”

The most difficult match in her life

In 2015, she had to face one of the hardest matches, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Coping with cancer was a life-changing experience for Monica. A month after her surgery, she wanted to give back to society all the blessings she had received. Her dream was to promote the massification of her beloved sport in public schools with vulnerable kids.

75% of children in Peru have limited possibilities in public schools, so they end up dropping out of school in order to work. According to the US Department of Labor, child labour reaches almost 22% corresponding to one million children. Monica realised she had to act, so she recruited some friends to offer children new opportunities through table tennis. Thus, Impactando Vidas programme was founded.

Beginning of “Impactando Vidas”

With the support of Peru’s Government and private funds, a Corporate Social Responsibility programme was carried out as part of the Physical Education (PE) subject in public schools in 2016. Its objective was using table tennis as a tool to reduce inequality for children in extreme poverty by providing equipment, and pedagogical books for students and teachers.

After the successful beginning, Monica and her team created two more programmes: Abrazando Sueños (Embracing Dreams) and Ping Pong Barrio (Ping Pong Slums).

Abrazando Sueños is a solidarity programme that consists of a private school sponsoring a public school. Both schools practise table tennis during their PE classes and meet in a tournament at the end of the academic year.
Ping Pong Barrio is a programme to promote the sport and make it accessible to all age groups (children, youth, adults, and elderly) and people with disabilities by building concrete and folding table tennis tables in slums areas.

“Impactando Vidas” abroad

In addition to these programmes, the team kept working for new ways to motivate children to dream big. So, they came up with the idea of a travelling programme to offer children a unique intercultural experience and motivate them to stay in the programme. In 2018, eight children from different parts of Peru were chosen to travel to Brazil during their summer vacations. They stayed for fifteen days training at High Performance Training Centres and visiting tourist attractions.

In the next summer 10 children were chosen to travel to Argentina. They also trained in High Performance Training Centres and had the opportunity to get to know touristic places of Buenos Aires making their trip a life-changing experience.

Because of the successful results, the Impactando Vidas team continues searching for new countries to visit and support from officials, embassies, and international organisations.

Outstanding results in schools

Since its foundation, Impactando Vidas has built 500 concrete tables in more than 150 public schools impacting the lives of more than 150,000 children in 13 of the 24 regions in Peru. To have a better understanding of the impact, the team carried out studies on children and teachers. These showed that 80% of students were more motivated to study and stay at the school because of table tennis and 70% improved their grades.

In addition, 90% of children showed improvements in physical and psychomotor development. Remarkably, 92% of teachers affirmed that their students have improved their self-esteem significantly and 80% of children wanted to continue training table tennis.

Monica’s advice for women

Doubtless, Impactando Vidas’ positive impact in Peru is impressive thanks to the hard work of Monica Liyau and her team. So, we asked Monica Liyau for a piece of advice to inspire women to get involved in table tennis. She pointed out 4 factors: hard work, resilience, having a purpose in life, and the most important thing was, loving ourselves:

“Learn to recognize, identify, accept, embrace yourself but, above all, love your own identity that is the basis of any good start to build from it our own life story with authenticity, without pretending to be what we are not, nor being afraid of what they will say, as unique and different individuals.” Monica Liyau, inspirational woman and founder of Impactando Vidas

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