Volunteering makes a world of difference
Did you ever think the sport you play in school could bring you half way around the world? Not only did Clare’s love of soccer bring her to Africa, it gave her a chance to teach girls about HIV/AIDS and create friendships that will last a lifetime. Read about her trip to South Africa, her love of horses, and her advice to you about volunteering.
How old are you?
I’m sixteen years old.
What grade are you in school?
I will be a junior this year.
Where do you live?
I live in Washington, D.C.
Tell us about the experience you had with your travel select soccer team?
This summer I spent two weeks in South Africa with my travel soccer team. We went to Cape Town, Richmond, and Port Elizabeth, South Africa to host soccer clinics and educate girls about HIV/AIDS. It was an incredible experience, certainly life changing. We not only got to play soccer with girls our age from a different country, but we got to learn about HIV/AIDS together and how to make smart decisions every day. It would be very hard to summarize my experience in South Africa, but I can easily say it was one that will stay with me forever.
How did you learn about this trip?
One of my soccer coaches, Ian Oliver, works for the Academy for Educational Development. He had already been to Africa, working with a program called Grassroot Soccer, which combines soccer with HIV/AIDS education. He told us about an idea he had to send my team to South Africa and work with Grassroot Soccer. About a year ago we began fundraising to make our trip possible.
How did you raise money?
When we first began fundraising, we set a goal to have players on the team raise a certain amount of money on their own. Each player sent out personalized letters to family, friends, and even schools asking for donations to make the trip possible. After each player had raised the goal amount of money we began selling umbrellas with red HIV/AIDS ribbons tied on. We also hosted a Wine Tasting and silent auction where Alice Keeney, a professional photographer and one of our chaperones for the trip, auctioned off some of her artwork.
What did you do while you were in South Africa?
The purpose of my soccer team’s trip to South Africa was to host soccer clinics for girls while incorporating information about HIV/AIDS. We worked in Richmond and Port Elizabeth, but we also played a young women’s team called the Ambassadors in Cape Town. The main program we worked with was Grassroot Soccer. It’s an incredible program, which educates soccer coaches on how to teach about HIV/AIDS through soccer.
What was the best experience you had while you were there?
One of the most amazing experiences I had while I was in South Africa was on our foot township tour of Richmond. It’s unbelievable to be given the opportunity to see their community and even more amazing to do it with the people living there. I remember we had just finished playing soccer with some of the local girls, when they heard we were going on a township tour. They decided they wanted to show us where they lived. Immediately a group of girls from the soccer clinic ran up and grabbed the hands of all my teammates, and we walked in a long chain talking and laughing, and even attempting to learn some Afrikaans. We walked past tin shacks no larger then an average person’s bedroom, where entire families were living. Although to my team it seemed sad and in many ways unfair, we only needed to look at their faces and see them smile. Each girl was proud of her home and wanted us to come in and look around. It was an absolutely life-changing experience to meet these girls who had so little, yet were so happy.
How long have you been playing soccer?
I joined my first soccer team when I was four years old.
What are some of your other hobbies?
When I was nine years old I began taking horseback riding lessons at the Rock Creek Park Horse Center. I now ride three horses there, and teach riding lessons. I could never decide whether I love horseback riding or soccer more, they’re both incredibly important parts of my life.
What do you think you want to do when you graduate high school?
I am definitely going to college once I graduate high school, I’m interested in going to Medical School after that but it’s still early. I haven’t made up my mind yet.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to volunteer more?
Definitely go for it. While I was in South Africa I went to bed each night feeling like I had achieved more that day then I had ever before. Each day was rewarding and changed my life significantly. Volunteering not only impacts the people you work with, but yourself as well.
Content last reviewed September 01, 2007
Page last updated September 01, 2007