In the beginning stages of UKSD, I was involved on the participation side. I was doing his clinics, training sessions, and playing for his teams. As I got older and more involved with looking into collegiate level sports, I became more interested in the community service aspect of UKSD.
The first projects I can remember doing were local ones. The ones that come to mind are the first soccerthons we did in Barnstable where we struggled to build a cardboard home large enough and stable enough for us to sleep in for a night. After this event, my eyes were opened to not only the local issues our own communities were facing, but the global issues dominant in countries around the world. I was eventually introduced to the abroad trips provided by UKSD.
With UKSD, I have travelled to Dominica multiple times, to England, Puerto Rico, and will soon be venturing off to Africa and potentially the Middle East in the future. The most notable trips were the service ones to Dominica.
Dominica, a small Caribbean island, was one of the most life changing experiences. The memory that pops into my mind every time is one that took place when we were driving back home one night. We had spent the day visiting the Kalinago people , an indigenous group on the island. On the drive home, we saw two boys playing with random objects in the street in front of their home.
We decided to pull over and give them a ball we had rolling around in the trunk. Words cannot describe how happy these kids looked to have a ball of their own to play with. They looked shocked even. Moments like these helped alter my perspective on life.
In my last high school years, I continued partaking in the trips, but I also flipped the switch and started being a part of the other side of UKSD, coaching. It was pretty funny to see things starting to come full circle. I helped at first with some little practices or after school programs, and eventually got to the point where I was running certain programs on my own.
On the coaching end of it, I was truly able to see the real impact that UKSD had on these kids. For some, it was the only sport they’d be able to participate in all year. For others, it was an opportunity to learn beyond just the game and to work with other kids. For others, it was a way to make friends. Seeing it on the other side, through coaching, made me want to continue to be a part of UKSD as I moved on to the next stages of my life.
When I decided to come down to Florida for college, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fully participate. However, over the last couple of years, my relations with UKSD have only become stronger and more meaningful. As I get older and gain more life experiences, I’ve realized just how much of an impact UKSD can have on kids in this world. Most recently, I’ve been helping with the behind the scenes tasks. This spring semester, I accepted a position as the UKSD Marketing intern, and it has been great to be able to try to help the organization expand and maintain, so they can continue their efforts to help youth. Last week, we also added another Alumni in the community trip to the books, where some girls from local Cape Cod high schools came and got a tour of the school and played with the USFWCT.
Overall, it has truly been amazing and rewarding to see how full-circle UKSD has come for me. From being an active participant when I was a kid, to now helping with the behind the scenes of organization, the coaching, and becoming an “alumni in the community”, I can honestly say that UKSD has been one of the driving factors in molding me into the person I am today. As I look forward to the next stages of my life, finishing college and graduating, I know that I will always have UKSD as a huge component of who I am and who I hope to become.
Take a look of our 2017 recap. We're proud to know we've changed lives along the way!
As UKSD continues to grow, we have seen and felt the increasing impact we have had on our home of Cape Cod. We have been able to provide year round, free of charge soccer to so many families in our very own community. With free futsal, street, and beach soccer programs, we have been able to positively impact a great portion of our youth.
Along with free leagues and programs, we have had a successful year with our girl’s soccer academy, as we have worked to create strong technical players who also focus on community service projects and diversity training. In connection to the academy, we have also been able to run many awareness events revolving around increasing education in areas such as homelessness, hunger, and substance abuse.
One of the main missions of our work is creating youth who foster a desire to help their communities. One of our former participants, Vanessa Begley, expressed an interest in bringing the UKSD philosophy and mission to her college campus at the University of Southern Florida. In April of 2017, we travelled to Vanessa’s campus to work with her club team and other students who we trained to be able to run their very own free of charge programs and events.
Vanessa also began to make connections with the local recreation department to be able to set up UKSD programs in impoverished communities and neighborhoods surrounding the college campus. We will be traveling back to her campus in February of 2018, with a group of UKSD youth leaders, to continue our work in Southern Florida, and to develop the connection between current youth leaders and our alumni.
As many of our participants are high school aged, they are focused on trying to build strong foundations and connections which will help their transitions from high school to college. March of 2017 yielded a once in a lifetime experience for three of our UKSD high school female athletes. We ventured to Davis and Elkins college in West Virginia, in order to work with their women’s collegiate soccer team.
While there, the girls participated in a community service event where we ran free of charge clinics for youth in the surrounding community, they trained with a local club team, toured the campus with the women’s team at the college, received individualized advice from admissions officers, and participated in a tryout with the current team and coach, where are three players were given affirmation that they could play at the collegiate level, along with advice and actions plans as to how to pursue that next level of play if they were interested.
Although they may not choose to attend that particular school, they are able to see, first hand, what it would take regarding preparation, making contact, and the importance of their educational success while in high school because these colleges stress the importance of being a wellrounded student athlete.
Each year, the UKSD team travels to the Island of Dominica to work with our island friends we have made lifelong connections with. April of 2017 was another trip for the books, as we had 7 high school UKSD youth leaders who made the trip to volunteer a week of their time. Not only did they raise monetary donations, equipment, and supplies before the trip to bring down, but they worked on numerous projects while there and offered completely free of charge coaching for the local youth. Unfortunately, only a few short months after this year’s trip, Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Many people lost their lives, homes, possessions, etc. The island has now spent months attempting to rebuild, but they are still without basic supplies, electricity, and aid. Doc travelled down in November to bring a full shipment of donated supplies including food, toiletries, diapers, solar panels, and other necessities, but they are still in need of our help. We are planning an adult trip for April of 2018 which will be focused on bringing people with trade skills to help in every capacity needed.
Members of the UKSD team travelled to Kenya, Africa in the summer of 2016 and were significantly impacted by the beautiful country and its people. We made an immediate connection with a man named Edwin Oketch, who has a program called Touch Kibera, which is a soccer based program located in Kibera, Africa, and it contains the same beliefs and philosophies as our own.
Throughout 2017, we have worked very closely with Edwin by sending supplies, uniforms, coaching items, and curriculums for his program and players. We have also been working on promoting the women’s game to young girls throughout Kibera and spent this Fall connecting our female athletes and theirs, enabling them to correspond via video calls and messages. In June of 2018, we will be traveling to Kibera to work on the ground there, as we will be bringing an adult team with diverse backgrounds to work on coaches clinics, to promote female play and empowerment, and to provide items both adults and youth will need to create a successful and sustainable youth development program.
In May of this year, members of the UKSD team- Doc, Pitsy, and Jay collected soccer items and school supplies from both the US and UK before travelling to the Middle Eastern country of Jordan where they partnered with orphanages and refugee camps to provide organizations with much needed supplies and coaching education.
Working with orphans, children, and families who had all been affected directly by war and had lost loved ones through the ongoing conflicts was no small feat, but the kind welcome and open arms that team members received was truly heart warming.
We were able to witness how a soccer ball can break down so many barriers, regardless of language differences, socio economic situations, backgrounds, etc. In a place where many children and young adults live in constant fear, we were able to see moments of pure joy, as they were able to simply just play.
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