At the start of 2020, we kicked off our KidzPlay4FreeProject winter futsal program with a bang. Over 100 kids and 20 youth leaders had joined us for what we had hoped was going to be another amazing in-person year of our KidzPlay4FreeProject programs.
Then out of nowhere...the new Covid world hit us. We quickly had to adapt to this new way of life and adjust our programming accordingly. The KP4FP instantly turned into an online platform, where we offered daily physical activities to help keep young people healthy and moving as a way to help them avoid falling into a sedentary lifestyle. Once UKSD participants had a foundation that allowed them to focus on their physical health and wellbeing needs, we then implemented our new Project Based Learning initiative, as a way to help others who were suffering hardships during the pandemic. UKSD youth leaders created countless projects, that among other things, that helped to support local food pantries and homeless shelters on a weekly basis. Other projects, helped collect electronics for senior centers as a way for the elderly to communicate with their families and a Kick It Forward project that encouraged random acts of kindness to others, that impacted communities across the U.S. During this time, we were also able to donate funds and much needed supplies to our partners in the Caribbean and the Middle East, as they too were suffering extreme hardships. With the many challenges that 2020 brought, a major focus was to help educate our members about many social issues surrounding diversity and inclusion, racism and xenophobia, and cultural education through peer-to-peer mentorship initiatives and advocating for our youth, giving them a voice to share their thoughts and ideas.
Undoubtedly this year had brought us many challenges, however, the core philosophy of UKSD held firm. To educate our participants about the many social issues that they themselves and others around them are surrounded by on a daily basis. Allowing them to use this newfound knowledge to create and develop projects and initiatives to help create the change the wish to see in the world.
If we could sum up the 2019 year here at UKSD in one word, we would choose - IMPACTFUL. The idea for UKSD was developed a decade ago. This year we witnessed what we have built start to come to fruition and have witnessed first hand how important our programming is to the young people that we are fortunate to work with. We have watched kids and teens who would not usually associate with one another, rally around to support one another in times of hardship and need. We have seen groups of teenagers truly making a difference within their communities and within their peer groups.
Many organizations dream of becoming bigger, including ourselves. This year has made us realize that the impact that we are making is real and life changing. Our goal for 2020 is to focus more on how we can be even more impactful for the young people that we work with on a daily basis. To help us in this journey, we have chosen three words which define our mission and will enable us to stay focused - Educate - Leadership - Create. With these three main focus points, we are ready to delve into the year ahead.
As we continue to reach more and more young people, we have partnered with the South Shore Select Soccer School. Home to 1000 soccer players from across the South Shore and MA, we have been able to bring the UKSD concept of using the game for good to a whole new group of young soccer players who are eager to give back. Already building upon our ever growing community across Cape Cod, we are now able to educate and use our efforts on bettering the lives of young people within our local community, while also bringing educational and soccer opportunities to our friends across the globe.
Now a fully established organization on Cape Cod with several hundred players participating in our year round programming, endless amounts of community service hours logged, providing opportunities for travel in the name of social change across the US., Caribbean, Africa, and Middle East, creating opportunities for players to be actively engaged and community minded youth leaders, we decided that we wanted to assist with creating opportunities for our members to experience college life first hand and created partnerships across the U.S. with several college soccer programs. Our players would now have the chance to experience life on a college campus, meet players, coaches, clubs, and admissions to help each of our members to be able to better navigate the next chapter of their lives.
This was a huge year for our international programs and efforts to provide opportunities for players within our local Cape Cod programs to truly make a difference throughout the entire world. While members of the UKSD team were heading to Kenya to create new partnerships and help at risk your people within the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, UKSD Alumni had partnered with organizations in Jordan who were dedicated to providing a safe environment for refugees. Prior to both visits, players from UKSD programs had collected soccer equipment and school supplies that were distributed to young people throughout the Caribbean, Africa, and Middle East
In 2015 we continued to build on all of our programming locally and started to make new connections throughout the U.S. specifically in Ohio with high school aged players from our Cape Cod KidzPlay4FreeProject programs, and visited inner city schools throughout Columbus to provide totally free of charge clinics. We once again made our annual pilgrimage to Dominica with several high schools volunteers and with the assistance of UKSD members who were now embarking life after high school and wanted to continue their work with UKSD, created the Alumni in the Community program.
What had started off as a handful of kids in 2011, was now between 100 and 200 players strong at each event on Cape Cod, with fully established year round totally free of charge playing opportunities. In 2014 we also embarked on our first adventure to Dominica with a handful of Cape Cod high school soccer players for an unforgettable trip, helping families, providing school supplies and soccer equipment, and assisting with service projects throughout the island to better the lives of local people.
After much research and discussion with our high school members, we decided to dedicate some of our efforts to helping other communities across the U.S. and throughout the world. The next step was to take the show on the road. In 2013 we took a group of female high school soccer players across the pond to sunny England for a weeks visit to the University of Exeter. Prior to the trip to the U.K. UKSD team members had visited the Caribbean island of Dominica to set up relationships with groups that works with impoverished communities and act risk young people throughout the island. The stage had been set for our Cape Cod participants to see how the game of soccer could break down social barriers, globally…
Upon gathering multiple youth throughout Cape Cod and providing them with a safe environment to play, we wanted to engage each of player and encourage each participant to be actively engaged in efforts to better their community. Due to this we created platforms and events such as our sleepout soccerthons and food donation tournaments throughout several towns across Cape Cod. Players from far and wide, of all abilities, started to turn out and join us in helping their community through soccer.
The concept and ideas were formulated and the United Kidz Soccer Development mission had began. Our first ever program was a pick up street soccer game with 9 kids in a parking lot and an old soccer ball. Throughout the year we were joined by more and more players each week in parking lots, on the beach, in school gyms, and on many soccer fields throughout the Cape. It was official, the KidzPlay4FreeProject had arrived!