The Experience of a Founder: Marcus Bernard

by Marcus Bernard

  • Posted on August 12, 2015

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This week, Marcus, founder of Soccer For Change, let us venture into his experiences, and showed us the impact this organization had on the Monte Cristi community. It is evident that it is not only about the volunteers, but the children Soccer For Change is helping.

Marcus focuses on both our pillars of leadership and teamwork, through his stories and experiences. Please read his post below and enjoy!

“The beginning of something special is the only way to accurately describe my trip to the Dominican Republic.  When we first arrived, I had no idea what to expect.  I was nervous but also filled with excitement for what the experience would be like.  I was not nervous about the kids, accommodations or logistical planning. I was nervous because this was the first time I would be leading a team into the unknown.  Was I prepared? Was I ready to take this step as a leader? I was ready for the challenge.  I knew I was prepared for this, remembering all of the countless hours of dedication that went into this whole entire journey.

We had 2 camp sessions per day, one in Monte Cristi, one in Palo Verde.  The camps were a huge success with over 40 participants in Monte Cristi and 17 in Palo Verde.  The first few days were a little difficult, as my volunteer team and I were just getting our feet wet and it was a scramble to get organized at times.  But after a few days, we all knew what the camp sessions would be like, what kind of numbers we would get, and what age groups we would be working with.  This made it a lot easier to run the sessions.

We could not have had everything run as fantastic as it went without one person in particular, and his name is Ariel.  Ariel is a local community activist that I had met when I first came to Monte Cristi three years ago.  He is a respected figure in the community who was able to help organize the kids and translate instructions, which broke down the language barrier.  The third day was really the turning point for me during this trip.  I started to bond with the children and I saw their skills quickly improving.  More importantly, I saw leaders begin to emerge in the group.  Certain kids started to take charge and take responsibilities for their peers.  It was really amazing to see.  We did lots of team competitions and it was always those leaders at the front of the line, ready to lead their team to victory and cheering on their teammates.

Our morning session was very different than our afternoon session, but they were equally special.  Our second group was a lot smaller and it gave me a chance to spend more one-on-one time with the kids. I’ll never forget one girl that came to our camp. Her name was Michele, and she had just wandered in to the camp on the second day. I think she just saw some kids from her neighborhood playing games and wanted to see what it was about.  She didn’t have shoes on, and seemed very shy to participate in the camp activities.  I had my volunteers running different stations and I was going from one to another making sure things were running smoothly.  I saw Michele’s hesitation to participate so I decided I would try a different method with her to get her involved.  She only spoke Spanish so I had one of the volunteers (Elizabeth) from the Dominican help me translate.  I realized that she had probably not played soccer before and was shy to make a mistake in front of her peers. So, I took her to the side of one of the drills and set up a very simple drill for her.

Marcus and Michelle

She was so shy that she did not even want to kick the soccer ball, as she was so afraid of embarrassing herself.  I kept encouraging her and told her she could do it; there was nothing to be afraid of!  We started with a short distance and I helped her dribble the ball.  I slowly started increasing the distance for her to dribble and you could see her face light up as she kept reaching the new goals I set for her. By the end of the session you could see how much her confidence had grown; she was dribbling, weaving in-between cones and engaging in the other drills with her peers.  She was so eager to come back to camp! When we arrived the next day, Michele was the first one to grab a soccer ball and begin playing.  Words cant describe the feeling I had when I saw her smiling and laughing when participating in the games that day.  It was such a huge transformation from one day to the next, and it wasn’t about soccer, soccer was just the platform.  It was seeing this girl who was shy, who wouldn’t participate, who would barley speak.  Seeing her transform into this self confident, completely active, loud engaging girl, was something truly special.  At that moment I knew she would never forget this camp. She had learned something new about herself, which was that she could put her mind to something, try something new, and wasn’t afraid of failure.

I could talk all day about that experience, it really almost brought me to tears seeing what our work could do for one child.  This whole week was full of amazing experiences, and it demonstrated the true potential Soccer For Change.  This trip was truly the beginning of the rest of my life.  My passion for this has grown even greater, and I am coming back to Canada even more motivated to make a difference in the world.  I am overwhelmed with excitement, I can’t wait for the next trip. ” – Marcus Bernard

There is definitely something to be said about Marcus, not only is he a leader, but he is inspiring and motivating for others. Marcus demonstrates our three pillars of teamwork, leadership, and communication, in all of his work as the founder of Soccer For Change.