As promised, the next few blog posts will be surrounding our trip to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic that took place from July 11th to July 18th. During this trip, our team organized a soccer camp that was open to the local children. We focused on 3 pillars when teaching soccer: communication, teamwork, and leadership. These pillars encompass what Soccer For Change feels is valuable and naturally taught through sport.
Victoria Rebelo was one of our Soccer For Change volunteers. She wrote about her experience in the post below, touching on how she found ways to communicate with the children, despite having a language barrier.
“I have just come back from a 7 day service trip that was in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. I went with a group called Soccer for Change, which is the most amazing non-profit organization. We were there to run a soccer camp for underprivileged children, trying to teach them how to turn sport skills into positive every day skills and habits such as teamwork, leadership, and communication.
The things I experienced in the Dominican Republic were between two extremes: heartbreaking and heartwarming. I didn’t think I would get as emotionally involved as I ended up being. I met some amazing children who were hungry and passionate to play the game of futbol, who were SO excited showing up every morning because no one had ever given them this opportunity. The most surprising thing to me was the girls. The same bunch of girls showed up every morning, just as fiercely eager to play as the boys were. And these girls, they were good. Amazing even. They kicked just as hard, and ran just as fast. I connected with these girls. They were all around 14-16, and we would have fun dancing together. That is how we communicated due to the fact I speak only the tiniest broken Spanish, but it worked. We would use our hands as symbols, and work together to understand each other. By the end of the week, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. These girls came onto the field with courage, excitement, and willingness to listen and learn. Every single person in that camp; girls, boys, coaches, and volunteers worked together so beautifully it was impossible not to be overcome with emotion that last minute on the last day. The change from the beginning to the end of the week was noticeable as well.
I cannot take even a little of credit however. The founder of the organization, Marcus Bernard, worked so hard creating this whole one week long event. He was such an inspiration to work with, and watching him kick around a soccer ball with kids, mentoring them, patiently explaining how to do something, when to communicate, how to be a team player, was truly an extremely beautiful experience. I think that being in Monte Cristi, watching those girls and boys, communicating my awe at how awesome they were, may have made some sort of difference in their lives, and that to me is worth all of the hot sweaty days running around in the sun.
At the end of the week, saying bye to all those kids, all my girls, I just expected was a wave goodbye. Instead, I got a dog pile of girls on me, giving me kisses and wanting to take pictures. It was then when my emotions broke through, and was so sad to be leaving those girls there. I have so much love for them in my heart; I hope to see them again on the next trip back.
This trip was an eye opening experience. It feels overwhelming that I’m at home in my bed, air conditioned house, typing on a laptop. I have the power and freedom to do whatever I want over here. They don’t have all the advantages I have. And that really makes me think. How can this change? I want to continue to make even the smallest of differences. Because a small difference to me can be a huge one on the other side of the world.
Soccer For Change, you are working wonders on me. On them. And on the world.”
I hope that Victoria’s recount of her experience allows you to see the power that Soccer For Change is having on the children, as well as our volunteers. As shown, the most important aspect of the trip was enriching the lives of these children daily through sport. Next week, we will feature another volunteer, further exploring how one organization is making strides to create a better world.