I'm writing this blog sitting at the back of a very bumpy bus on my way to the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have always wanted to travel to India and Nepal to see how these countries work, live, and love. As a substitute teacher, summer was the perfect time to book a three week trip, all self funded, with my good friend and current VP of Second Effort. Since founding the non-profit, I have wanted to use my travels as a chance to give back, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it!
Arriving in Delhi, a city of nearly 18 million people, was overwhelming to say the least (even having travelled most of South East Asia and Central America). With the crazy nonstop traffic and buzz of the city, and with no reliable transportation during "rush hour", we unfortunately decided to resort to plan B and have our contacts pick up the equipment at our hotel..
One of the coaches from an organization called "Slum Soccer" agreed to stop by and collect some of the gear. A few hours later, we noticed a man in the lobby, who seemed to be fairly anxious, wondering around. After noting the faded Addidas pants, we went and if he was looking for Sam from Second Effort.
Even with our obvious bag of soccer equipment, he seemed hesitant to say yes, although he was in fact there to meet us. I got the feeling that he was expecting a male and was surprised to know that two young females were actually running the organization. It could have been the lack of communication, or the fact that he spoke little English. Either way, it was extremely inspiring to see his face instantly light up when we opened the bag to show him "the goods". He smiled, shook our hands, bowed, and said thank you with a thick accent. Watching him ride away on his motorbike with a bag full of equipment piled on the back (something you would never see in Canada) was truly humbling. It gave me a warm feeling of encouragement that we (you- the people who donate) are making a difference in the lives of players around the world.
Since that first experience, although it didn't go as planned, we seemed to be constantly reminded of how universal and important soccer really is for so many of us worldwide. Perhaps the most memorable experience with football in India was in Varanasi, a notoriously religious Hindu city off the Ganges river. We witnessed a group of kids playing what resembled the game we know and love, in the middle of a busy street, using a half full bottle of water instead of a "ball". We joined in for a few passes and enjoyed some laughs before heading off into the night.
Continuing into Nepal, there were signs of soccer everywhere from shops, to advertisements, to jerseys being worn, to paintings on the back of busses.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to a home-stay where we visited a school in the Tharu community just outside of Chitwan National Park (which is home to hundreds of rhinos). Luckily, we had saved 10 jerseys, a couple pairs of shoes, and a ball to give them as a thank you for their hospitality.
More than anything, I wanted to write this blog to highlight how truly thankful young players around the world are of your generosity. I wanted to write this to show that there really is a need in what we do here at Second Effort, and that the joy of the game can be shared and passed along in simple, yet meaningful ways.
Check out our Instagram page for more photos and videos and don't forget to #MakeTheEffort by getting involved and giving back to our fellow global teammates. Let us know if you plan on travelling and have room to take some gear with you in your adventures. Trust me, there is ALWAYS someone close by who loves the game just as much, if not more, than you do.