This blog was started as a way to turn the desire to help into real action. Few programs do that as well as Homeless Street Soccer. Yes, HOMELESS street soccer. This program, initiated in the US in my former home town of Charlotte, North Carolina, has expanded to more than a dozen cities throughout the country. The Homeless World Cup is similar to the non-homeless version in that it operates as a competitive global sports event with team representation from around the world. The difference, of course, is that these team members have struggled through a range of difficult circumstances including living on the streets, joblessness, hunger, and in some cases abuse and addiction. Soccer gives them the opportunity to find new meaning in their lives, to develop an identity beyond their disadvantages, to learn new physical, emotional, and social skills, and to bond with team members and competitors from weekly practice to the global stage of international competition.
This year's competition will be held in Australia, and the US Team needs your help to fund their trip. You might think this seems extravagant; that spending $2000 on travel, training, lodging, and other expenses couldn't possibly be as useful as spending it on a down-payment for an apartment or a couple months worth of food (of course, if you've seen the documentary on the Homeless World Cup - Kicking It! - you know the magnitude and power of the event). But in the 'teach a man to fish' philosophy, being one of the select few given the honor to represent your country, to hone and show your skills, to be cheered on by strangers, to work as a team, to succeed at this one thing, might very well be the event that turns a life around. And that new life might go on to inspire the lives of others, the optimism of others, the giving of others.
When financial times are hard, you can imagine they are even harder for those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. Already there is buzz about the difficult holiday season to come. Imagine what it can teach your children, who might also be interested in sports, or your relative who played soccer as a child himself or herself, to give a gift in their name. It might cost you less than a new sweater, and mean a whole lot more.
My friend Lawrence Cann started this program (and, yes, this is the same Urban Ministry Center I mentioned in the Artworks auction blog). Below is his letter to you, contact information, and ways you can contribute. The Homeless World Cup is our cause of the week.
US Homeless World Cup Participation
Several years ago we started a soccer team because we thought our homeless clients would benefit from team sports. They literally took the ball and ran with it. Then a bunch of other cities got their own balls and they all started running. Check out our blog to see news of the 11 cities which now run street soccer programs. In the US, it all started here at the Urban Ministry Center.
The prospects for the future are looking fantastic. However, after hosting a great qualifying event this summer, we currently have a gap in our funding for our participation in the Homeless World Cup coming up in December. We must meet our funding goal soon to insure that we can proceed with plans to participate in the competition. Unfortunately we are still $15,000 short. Therefore we are making this grassroots funding plea. Thanks to great support from Corporations and a few individuals, we haven't had to do this in the past. Now we need those of you who value what this program achieves, and are able, to make substantial contributions.
Participation per player in the Homeless World Cup costs $2000. Our USA National team includes 13 people.
The coaches, as well as other staff, and even some of the players have all donated so far. Please join us with a donation of whatever you can - $100 or more would be greatly appreciated. Without exception, the players have taken full advantage of the opportunity and have all made impressive turnarounds. Please let us know if you can join us as a donor. Pay when you can, any time between now and the end of December. But please, please let us know as soon as possible if you do want to make a pledge.
I am available all the time on my cell phone (704 975 5755) to talk about the project and the impact it is having on the players, or email me at the address below. Seventy five percent of team members move off the street within 18 months of sticking with the team!
Donations can be taken online at www.urbanministrycenter.org under the donate tab. Or checks can be mailed to:
Urban Ministry Center
945 N. College Street
Charlotte, NC 28206
Please earmark them "world cup" and add "cause of the week" if you want us to know you read it here!
Thank you so much. All donors will be recognized as Club Members on our site and be sent updates on the team's performance at the Homeless World Cup.