Our Mission is to use sport and play to as a platform to educate and empower youth with leadership, communication and goal setting skills. Through sports, youth in disadvantaged communities can learn to rise above poverty and conflict to reach their true potential. By building better futures we can drive social change in their communities with lasting impact.
The story of Soccer For Change began in 2011. Marcus had just turned 18 and was attending his first year of university. His parents approached him with an opportunity to volunteer on a service trip with the Outreach 360 organization, in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. The mission was to help create better opportunities for children by teaching them English. Initially, he was not interested in going at all; in fact he was very reluctant to participate in any of the Outreach 360 pre-trip meetings. Fortunately, his parents encouraged him to go. He didn't know it at the time, but this trip was going to have a significant impact on his life and change the way he viewed the world forever.
Most people who travel to the Dominican Republic are attracted to the beautiful beaches, resorts and friendly people. This trip of course was not to a resort, and certainly did not involve beautiful beaches, but the children of Monte Cristi were able to make a lasting impression on him. Marcus has clear memories of the joy on the faces of the students when the volunteer team brought out the soccer balls, jump ropes and bikes for them to play with. They were so happy to be playing with these simple objects and this reminded Marcus that Play is simple.
Play is simple, and this simplicity appears to be lost in today's digital generation. The technology available in developed countries, such as Canada, is changing the way we think about play. Engaging with the children of Monte Cristi was a truly grounding experience for him because of this. While on this trip, the group traveled to the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti where the two nations share an open market called “Dajabon”. He saw people struggling to survive, to earn a living, and to feed their families. It was absolute chaos; the market place was overflowing with children and adults suffering from poverty. Seeing these children growing up in this impoverished environment was a very moving experience for all of the volunteers on the trip. Upon returning home to Toronto, Marcus knew he wanted to initiate change for children who aren't blessed with the opportunities that he has. He just needed to figure out what direction to take to make change possible.
In the summer of 2012, Marcus was given the opportunity to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the U20 World Cup qualifying rounds. This trip guided his direction and helped define exactly how he could initiate change to help children. “Being part of the U20 tournament was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and also one of the most challenging. I believe that overcoming challenges in life enables people to learn much about themselves, while building character and confidence”-Marcus Bernard.
Reflecting on this trip, he realized that the experiences and life skills the game of soccer has given him have shaped who he is today.
“I have personally experienced the true value that sport can play in one's development. When I realized I could use sport as a platform to make a positive impact in the lives of others, Soccer For Change was born.” -Marcus Bernard.