Original Post: 3/16/2010
(by Tracy Noonan member of the World Cup Winning 1999 USA team)
TANZANIA?!?! WHAT?!?! WHY?!?! I know that is what most of you are thinking right now so here is a little more info to get you up to speed.
The story begins back in July 2007. Coaches Across Continents founder and long time friend Nick Gates was passing through North Carolina on a drive north from Florida to Boston. He was literally an hour from Chapel Hill when he called me out of the blue. I hadn’t spoken to him or seen him in years and I just happened to be free on this particular day off in between weeks of a summer full of camps. We met for lunch and he filled me in on his year of travel in Africa. We talked about his vision for Coaches Across Continents. Long story short, I was intrigued and immediately drawn in by the passion he had for this overwhelming undertaking.
In 2008 I followed Nick’s journeys across Africa and watched his remarkable vision come to fruition. The photos, videos, and stories were incredible. Eager to be involved, but in the midst of going through a divorce, recovering emotionally and financially, as well as running my camp business, the timing was not right. I had enough on my plate already!
In 2009 my camp business, Dynasty Goalkeeping, became involved with Coaches Across Continents through the Dynasty Community Outreach Challenge. Started in 2008, the aim of the Community Outreach Challenge is to make my students more social aware and to inspire them to act “beyond themselves”. In 2008 students donated sports bras to the Carolina For Kibera organization, http://cfk.unc.edu/index.php, for females who participate in the CFK Youth Sports Program in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Who knew such a simple and standard article of clothing for female athletes around the world was considered a luxury item for young women in Africa. It is just one of the many things we never think of and I know that I certainly took for granted. In 2009 the goal was simple — to donate new and/or barely used goalkeeper gloves. The response from my students was overwhelmingly positive! They rallied and donated over 150 pairs of goalkeeper gloves, as well as cleats, shorts, pens and pencils all to be put to good use by the Coaches Across Continents supported organizations in Africa.
This brings me to Tanzania. The more I have learned about Coaches Across Continents mission and followed them, the more compelled I have become to act. To me it is impossible not to be involved when I see how much Nick has achieved, how much he continues to give, and hearing the hope in his voice knowing that they are already making a HUGE difference in just 3 brief years. It is an amazing organization that took tremendous vision, energy, passion, and countless hours for Nick to develop without earning a single cent. It is an impressive undertaking that should inspire us all to do more and to see that we are all capable of giving more of ourselves. The stories I have read and the photos I have seen from Nick and the other CAC volunteers of their challenges, successes, and the lives they are impacting, are powerful. The children in their videos have NOTHING. Struggling for food, water, and shelter is their daily reality while my thoughts are about what shirt to wear in a closet full of choices, what food to eat in a refrigerator stocked with food from Whole Foods, and what flowers I should plant as spring arrives. We have it SO easy that it is hard to fathom and comprehend what life a continent away is truly like. They play in bare feet on dirt fields with glass, teenage girls come to play with THEIR babies strapped to their backs, yet somehow they smile and there is joy. If Nick could devote his life to this, how could I not be involved in some small way? Volunteering as a coach is the very LEAST I can do.
So in the fall of 2009 I mentioned to Nick that I wanted to be involved and to keep me in mind as a volunteer for the future. No big discussion, I just said June and July were not options as those are my big camp months. Then in January 2010 Nick casually mentions, as he is hanging up the phone, for me to keep September free since I will be heading to Tanzania. What?!?! REALLY?!?!? I seriously thought he was kidding, but when I received the email a few weeks later with the 2010 Staff Placements I realized he wasn’t! FANTASTIC! I was thrilled!
So the journey begins! I am so excited about the opportunity that lies ahead. I can no longer stand on the sideline cheering others on. I want in the game!
That being said I know this experience will be very difficult emotionally and one that will be impossible to fully comprehend until I arrive. The anticipation is already building and my journey is still 5+ months away. I don’t leave for Tanzania until the end of August, but there is plenty to do — shots to be had, research to be done, and funds to be raised!
To make donating easier I have established a fundraising website:
Your contributions will help fund flights and living expenses for volunteers (like me!) that make the Coaches Across Continents programs possible. In addition they are also used to create locally owned, sustainable programs by providing teacher/coach education on topics like Soccer for Health and Wellness (including HIV and malaria education), Soccer for Female Empowerment and Soccer for Conflict Resolution. It’s an astounding program that is already winning awards and gaining international recognition! In 2009 they won the Beyond Sport Global Award for Sport for Social Development. So be sure to check out their website www.coachesacrosscontinents.com and video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXkWqYz9SfE
I will keep you all in the loop of my pre-trip preparations here as dates and details become finalized. Initially the posts won’t be that frequent, however, as the trip nears and the journey begins I will post as often as internet access permits (which may be quite limited once I get to Africa) so you can keep tabs on me and the work of Coaches Across Continents.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement!