Mens sana, in corpore sano.
Few Filipino children would know what these words mean, but for good friends Chris Thomas and Quintin Pastrana, it was a call to action.
Quintin says, “Reading saved my life.” Chris says, “Football saved my life.”
Both stories are true. Both men testify to the life-changing powers of education, and sport. Both men believe that one is incomplete without the other. Read. Play. Be healthy. Thrive.
Thus the two friends set out to make the vision come true. They were going to change a community by sharing what was most valuable in their lives. They will build a library, fill it with books, and let the children read or learn to read, and dream. Near the library will be a football pitch, the enclosed, five-a-side kind that both loved to play in and which is considered the most popular style of football in the UK and Europe. (Chris is British. Quintin spent time in the UK. Both are avid footballers). The children will spend time in the pitch learning football, and playing it, after their study time. Some of the boys will dream of being Messi, or Ronaldo, and being part of the national team. The girls, on the other hand, dream of “going to other countries”.
Soon they are joined by another young man with a passion for health – promoted through a system that converts water into the pure, clean, fresh water that we all need for drinking. We are all 60% water. We all need to drink more and more water, for good health. So many communities , so many children, who do not have clean water to drink, in a nation of 7641 islands. And for those who engage in strenuous physical activity, hydration is extremely important. “So when the children play, they can always go to the water facility where they can enjoy clean potable water – as much as they want, for free,” advised Carlo Delantar, the 27- year old country director of Waves for Water, an international NGO that promotes and builds clean water systems, as he was recruited to complete the trio.
“We call the campaign “Play for Goals”. By “goals” here we are referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which we align our organization’s objectives, “ explained Chris Thomas. For example, Thomas who is president and founder of Football for Humanity pushes for sport – football in the small-sided pitch – to pursue “good health and well-being”. Quintin, founder of Library Renewal Partnership, builds libraries in support of “quality education” . And Carlo, who makes sure that the water supply for the entire village is nothing less than 100% pure, clean, healthy water, advocates “clean water and sanitation”. The group now has the opportunity to achieve a good part of the SDG’s, with an integrated approach that includes a proper library, a football facility, and a potable water system.
Fortunately, there are also many kind-hearted individuals in this world, and a few of them were inspired by the vision of these young men who wanted to make a significant, sustainable change. With pledges of support behind them, the trio set out to implement their vision.
Enter Edgar Te, Executive Director of Maharlika Sports Development Institute and Special Projects Director of Davao South Regional Football Association. He led the men to Zonta Village, in Barangay Tibungco, Davao City. It is a community composed of displaced Muslims, Christians and indigenous families, and Te, practically the only one in the team based in Davao City, volunteered to oversee the build and get all the necessary consultations, approvals and documentation that would allow the Play for Goals group to partner with the beneficiary community.
Slowly but surely, the structures rose. What started in the summer was ready before the first heavy rainfall of the year would visit the rapidly progressing city of the south.
“I’m amazed by this miracle. I had to see it to believe that we really pulled it off. We now have a library where mothers bring their children, sit on the floor, and together learn and enjoy exploring other realms. Mothers should introduce children to reading as early as possible. That’s scientifically proven to help the children become fast learners. With this library, we know we can aid learning and encourage a whole new generation of enthusiastic learners and leaders, especially among marginalized youth,” Pastrana said.
Chris Thomas invited foreign volunteers Owen Southgate and Leo Carlsson, both of the National Youth Football Association of Sweden, to play with the children using Skills Skola, a Swedish system of football instruction. The NYFA Skills Skola program, a creativity inspired system of football training was delivered as a way of inspiring children to have fun, seek solutions and cooperate whilst playing the beautiful game.
“I’ve seen really good potential in the children. It would be great to see them continue training and pursuing football as a sport. In our organization, football is a channel for developing the entire individual, so that they become better leaders, better human beings. The football pitch in the village will definitely lead the youth to more positive attitudes, and they will develop higher self-esteem,” added Southgate, who also gave a basic training course for local coaches in Davao City.
When good men work together, miracles happen. They’re of different nationalities, coming from different walks of life, with varied interests. They have one common denomination: they are all “action” men. What started as a dream, led to a simple plan, which fueled a single-minded determination to see the dream come to life. And they all agreed – this is going to be just the first, among many builds. Because so many children wait, and hope.
Football for Humanity Foundation, Inc uses the power of play and sport – football – to inspire, empower and transform the lives of children affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty. For more information: www.footballforhumanity.org.uk | Facebook: footballforhumanity