Seventeen-year-old Olivia Post of Evanston, Illinois has grown up playing soccer her entire life. When she learned about an impoverished town in Central America where children have no means to play “futbol,” she started a cause to put the game she loves within reach for them.
Olivia created Cents4Soccer, an effort to collect soccer gear to send to children in the town of Panajachel, Guatemala. With help from her high school and a local rival school, her club soccer teammates and friends, Olivia gathered more than 600 pieces of gently used soccer gear – including shoes, shorts, shirts, balls and bags – to send to Panajachel, located in Guatemala’s highlands. To cover shipping costs, Olivia designed Cents4Soccer bracelets and sold them to friends.
How did she come to know about this town 1,900 miles from her home in the Midwest? When a close family friend adopted a young boy from Guatemala, Olivia was exposed to a new culture. According to Olivia, this family visits Guatemala every year so the boy knows about his culture. “One year, they invited me to go,” Olivia recalls. “I had heard about the poverty there, and I wanted to do something to make their lives better.”
While on her trip to Panajachel, Olivia held a training camp for more than sixty kids, four days a week, for one month. While she went to teach soccer, Olivia got involved in more than she could have imagined. In her spare time, she taught villagers how to install water filters and helped deliver food and medicine to nearby villages.
“The most rewarding part was making these friendships with the people in Guatemala,” Olivia recalls about her trip. Olivia has stayed in touch with the people she worked with in Panajachel to ensure that her mission and hard work continue. She even got help recently from Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire men’s team to donate more than 300 pieces of equipment.
Finding common ground through the game of soccer, Olivia has forged lasting international bonds with Panajachel’s youths. “It’s a completely different world than what we live in,” she says. “Soccer is my passion and I wanted to share this.”
If you know someone like Olivia helping kids find joy, nominate them today for the Daily Point of Light Award at http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/recognition/dpol/nomination.