It is one thing to kick start fundraising campaigns, to donate money and equipment, or to raise awareness for a charity. But it’s a whole other experience to see and understand the value of the work you put in, on the people it directly impacts. Travelling to where your work manifests itself, and journeying to different locations that might have remnants of the work you put in from far, far away can have a truly lasting impact.
I first got involved with GOALS in 2014, searching the internet for a service project for my Bar Mitzvah. I knew I wanted to raise money for a charity that somehow involved soccer but also had its roots in a developing country. Up came GOALS Haiti, the perfect match.
In appealing for money through friends, family, and their connections, I raised enough funds to sponsor one GOALS team. The team I chose is called the Boys’ and Girls’ Ti Poisson team, based out of Carrefour Croix. It was such a success that we have continued our sponsorship of the team for the past few years. It is great to get updates on how the team was doing, letters from the students, and postcards from the team thanking them for my sponsorship — but the most truly eye-opening experience was going to Haiti and seeing the GOALS teams in action.
This summer was my “eye opening” experience, my 3-day trip to Haiti to see the country and the GOALS Operations in Leogane and the surrounding villages. On the way to the village of Destra was the village of Carrefour Croix, where my sponsored team is from! I was so excited when I realized that the group of kids who had just piled into the back of the pickup truck I was in was the team I had sponsored. I thought to myself, “I get to see kids wearing clothes I had donated, playing the game I love, all with my help.” Arriving at the field site we were welcomed by young kids not yet old enough to play and an astonishing view of the surrounding mountains.
One of GOALS’ best coaches, a clearly well-liked and charismatic woman, was leading a pre-game cheer/activity with the kids. The kids were having so much fun doing something as simple as a group warm-up combined with a song and dance. After trying to communicate with some of the kids on the sideline and carrying a few around, the game started. I was shocked to see how many people showed up. A girls’ game with so much support in a country that has issues with gender equity is a powerful thing. This, I think, can attest to the substantial impact that GOALS has on the communities it exists in -- changing cultural norms for the betterment of society, little by little. The game was lots of fun to watch. People all around were gathered for the love of GOALS and the game of soccer.
After the game, we left and walked a bit into the town of Destra, maybe about 200 yards away. I was quite surprised; I expected the villages I had heard so much about to be much larger and have a bit more infrastructure. This town was quite small and did not have a road going through it. We had a basic lunch in the schoolroom of the Destra Community Center. The center has clearly become the focal point of the village, with boys, girls, men, and women of all different ages gathered around, talking, eating lunch, and shucking coconuts.
All in all, I had seen the team I had sponsored in Carrefour Croix, a game at the Destra field, a coach in action, and a squadron of spectators who rely on or are connected with someone who relies on GOALS in some way. A community center, another GOALS town, and a school room with a chalk board. All thanks to GOALS, and the work of those supporting the organization. It was seeing it all in action, not just observing from far away. This, I can assure you, is what it means to see your work in action. And it is a truly invaluable experience. - Max R