BENEFITING: SOCCER WITHOUT BORDERS
Earlier this week, I wrapped up another trip with Big City Mountaineers, this one with Soccer Without Borders. It was my third trip, and each time I've thought that the prior experience could not be matched, and I've been proven wrong.
Soccer Without Borders (SWB) works with immigrant, refugee, and asylee youth who attend Oakland International High School. They provide programming to youth who are traditionally excluded from sports-based and extracurricular activities. Their programs provide participants with an avenue for positive engagement, a platform for personal growth, and a toolkit for a brighter future. Some of the guys on my trip had been in the US for years, others had only been here for 10 months.
I've been working with these SWB guys since March, taking them on day hikes, overnight hikes, and rock climbing trips in order to get them ready for the weeklong trip that just finished up. I didn't fully grasp the impact that they have on the larger Bay Area community until I attended their awards dinner a couple of weeks ago. I've attended plenty of awards ceremonies in my day, but what really set this one apart was who was in attendance - coaches and players from opposing teams. What impressed me most was when 3 players from opposing teams got up on stage and thanked SWB for kicking their butts on the field and doing it with class and sportsmanship - it's not something you see every day, and it's definitely not the type of thing you normally hear about Oakland, but there it was.
Last week's trip affected me in a profound way. Every night we sat around the campfire and had a reflection roundtable, where everyone shared (sometimes in halting but determined English) their hopes and goals. I learned a lot about the worlds that they came from, which are very, very different from the streets of Niles, Michigan; but more importantly I had the privilege to hear them share their dreams for the future - to learn to speak English fluently, to financially support their families, to become lawyers and photographers and doctors. We are a nation of immigrants who come here with high hopes, and last week I witnessed it first hand and came away from the experience a changed person.
You can't help but root for these guys. And I have been inspired to do a little more on my end - I'm going to put my education degree to good use and have committed to start doing some tutoring with the refugee population at Oakland International High School.
And it would really mean a lot to me if you could make a donation - however big or small - to Soccer Without Borders. They do a lot with very little (staff are paid around 20k/year, which is nothing in Bay Area dollars), and their van (which they use for getting the youth to games & things like the Sierra trip we just took) broke down a week ago. I've already put in $500, and I'll double that if this goes well. Whatever you can do would help - and thanks for reading!! :)