Several members of the FC Dallas family are traveling to Brazil this summer to take in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and have agreed to share their experiences with FCDallas.com to give our readers a first-person perspective of the festivities. Erika Cook and Melissa Janetta work in Business Development and Partnership Marketing for FC Dallas. They've traveled to Curitiba along with FC Dallas Foundation Director Melissa Reddick to do volunteer work with Lionsraw (and watch a little soccer). Give them a follow @2SoleSisters on Twitter and Instagram and keep up with them on Tumblr.
It didn’t take long for me at all to fall in love with this project and the people of Parolin. I felt immediately connected to the kids through our mutual love for soccer and their endless enthusiasm to learn. While all the other projects are outside the city of Curitiba, Parolin is in the inner city. The favela community (our version of inner city projects) is a harsh upbringing for the kids as the drug ridden streets and crime rule the community. We’ve spent time coaching and mentoring the kids of this favela as a reward for those that are attending school and church on a regular basis. This formula has been put into place in this community as a way to instill discipline and structure.
Our project is based in a 3G covered field house where just a few streets away from the pitch lies the worst favela that Lionsraw has seen as a team. Our kids are ages six to about sixteen and about 98% are boys. We have morning sessions with the little ones and then more technical afternoon sessions with the older kids. These kids are amazing soccer players! They are mini versions of Neymar dancing their way around each other like you wouldn’t believe. And tough…some of them play barefoot or in socks. If they get knocked down they don’t whine or complain and quickly get back up and get involved. They are so eager to learn whether it’s a new foot skill or to simply count to ten in English. The children have great respect for all of the coaches and volunteers on the project. Each morning they’ve greeted us with smiles, handshakes, and fist bumps and thank us before they leave in the afternoon.
Aside from soccer, we were lucky enough to spend last Sunday attending church with the kids and their community. It was a great experience to see them outside of the pitch engaging with each other on a different level. Most of them attended without their parents knowing their incentive was that they got to finish the day on the pitch. Their church provides a great support system for the kids so I hope they continue to participate and attend.
The short time that I’ve spent here I can say have been some of the happiest moments of my life. My team of fellow coaches, the kids and the community have warmed my heart forever. My hope for these kids is that they can find enough inspiration to continue on their paths of education and pave their way towards a brighter future despite the struggles of the Parolin community.