Young soccer players often outgrow their soccer uniforms and other gear before they outwear them. Recently, a network of travel industry professionals in the United States helped a youth soccer club outfit teams in Costa Rica.
Project Costa Rica provided soccer apparel to four teams at three schools in Costa Rica through Kick it Forward, a program established by the Ela Soccer Club in Lake Zurich, Illinois, with a mission to share quality soccer uniforms and gear with less fortunate communities after new uniform cycles render team wear unusable.
More than 175 items—including shorts, jerseys, socks, T-shirts and warm-ups—were delivered in February 2018 to elementary schools in the Alajuela Province and a high school in the town of Sarapiqui.
"Sending anything to these communities is never as simple as slapping a stamp on a package," said Brian Gilboy, Lead Volunteer, Kick it Forward Program. "It takes a coordinated effort by many individuals. Project Costa Rica came to fruition based on several organizations sharing ideas, networking and taking action."
The first donation drive was in late August 2017. "The Ela family came through and donations poured in," Gilboy said, noting that players donated three 25-pound boxes worth of apparel.
Yet the team had few global contacts to identify teams and communities in need outside of the United States.
Luckily, Gilboy had a friend in the travel industry. Brad Rosenbaum of Hemisphere Educational Travel had several contacts through the travel company's work and membership with the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA). He knew he could help.
Rosenbaum introduced Gilboy to Roy Peterson of Fly My Group, who introduced Gilboy to Steve Maehl and Daniel Granados of Global Travel Alliance—partner organization to Global Doing Good, a nonprofit that provides service learning and student travel opportunities in countries like Costa Rica.
"After learning of Global Doing Good's mission and hearing how excited they were about the chance to provide new uniforms and equipment to these communities, it was clear we needed to help," Gilboy said.
Gilboy sent the boxes of gear to the Global Doing Good headquarters in Billings, Montana. From there, a group on a service trip to Costa Rica packed the gear in suitcases and delivered the apparel to Global Doing Good offices near San Jose. Granados, the local representative, identified the teams in need and delivered the uniforms.
"This project was a complete team effort, mostly by strangers who shared a common goal," said Gilboy. "It never ceases to amaze me how many people are willing to help others, if you give them an opportunity. Boys and girls who were sharing uniforms—or did not have uniforms—now can be proud to dress and play as a team."
This article was originally published by Hemisphere Educational Travel.