Allegra McKee participated in one of Woza's Costa Rica programs in Summer 2016 and is headed to South Africa for Summer 2017. In this month's Woza Blog post, Allegra shares a memory from her time in Costa Rica reflecting on the ease of connecting with local children and the lasting impression they left on each other.
Last summer, I went on a Woza trip to Costa Rica for 12 days. First, we were in the small coastal town of Puntarenas, and then we went to the larger port city of Limon. While in Limon, we worked with R30, an organization that provides coaching and mentoring for young soccer players from underserved communities. We were incredibly lucky because we had the privilege of experiencing a tournament between all of the different outreach soccer clubs in the city. There were at least ten different soccer clubs with players ranging from ages 6-16, and were all nonprofit clubs just like R30. This was an amazing experience for me because I was able to help coach and get to know kids from all over the region, and understand how expansive the idea of Soccer for Development and Peace (SDP) is. These coaches were not getting paid very much (or anything at all), but they had chosen to reach out to their own community, and help kids find a way out of poverty. These are not just soccer clubs, but development centers where kids can learn lessons about responsibility, accountability, and kindness.
While at the tournament, I decided to go over to the playground where some local kids were hanging out. I started to ask questions using my basic knowledge of Spanish (like "what is your favorite color", "how old are you", etc), and immediately became surrounded by about 10 players ranging in age from about 8-15. I felt a little overwhelmed by all of the attention as they started asking me questions too, but it was amazing to have this connection with all of these different people in a new country. We had only talked for a few minutes before we became super comfortable with each other. This touched me, and it was incredible to get to play soccer with them and watch them on the field afterwards.
As we were leaving, one of the kids that I had been talking to approached me and asked something that I couldn't understand. Finally, he just said "pulsera" over and over. It took some time, but I began to understand that he wanted my bracelet as a memento! I was wearing this purple bracelet that I had bought in Mexico the Thanksgiving before, and I helped him tighten it onto his wrist before saying goodbye. This was important for me because it reminded me how much impact my presence had. I was the girl from the United States that had come to their country and played soccer with him, and neither of us were going to forget that.