I signed up for Kalu Yala to do work with the Community Outreach Program in San Miguel. The company’s creative director invited me via Facebook, and my recently founded non-profit endeavor urged me to go and experience the process of reaching out to, engaging, and helping people in my community.
Here in San Miguel, Kalu Yala’s Community Outreach program has inspired me to do fundraising for their soccer program and possibly put on a tri-city or a county-wide soccer tournament for San Martin County on Sunday “Funday”.
We interns have dubbed it Sunday Funday because locals come out, but mostly, out of towners come into the village to enjoy the rustic beauty, good food, and relax in the clean and clear river waters on a hot, sunny day. Sadly, they do a lot of loud music blasting, loitering and littering while in town for the day. The outlook for San Miguel isn’t so great, especially as it will become the pass-by hub to Kalu Yala’s sustainable village up the mountains versus its current stake as the destination and chill spot… an escape. This is why it is more important than ever to instill recycling habits and pride in their community in order to sustain and improve their way of living and preserve their productivity as a people.
So, the second week of orientation is half way over, and field research of personal projects has begun. Personally, beside watching people play soccer on Sundays and in the evening, I have approached our neighbor whom we call Hito, asking if a soccer tournament would be a good idea. And I have also approached two young men playing soccer at the local field, telling them about my plans. After getting their support and interest AND their willingness to create a team, I set up a meeting date where they and their interested friends can meet with me to discuss having a tournament.
I was told by these two soccer ball holding gentlemen that there’s one team in each of the surrounding cities, which totals about 8 teams. I was originally wanting to do a Tri-City or San Martin County tournament, and now it’s looking like it will have to be a San Martin county event, which I and my program director are EXCITED about!
Talking to the boys, Cheito y Andres, it seems it’s best to do 17 and older, as the La Mesa team has very large and strong grown men on it. And also, Sunday morning versus Saturday seems to be best, and every one works on Saturdays. La Mesa also has the best field and largest team, but it seems every one is still very willing and excited about a tournament. I can’t wait to finish executing this event!
By the start of the third week, with the help of my little friend Cheito, I’ve managed to assemble a full team of 17-25 year olds in San Miguel, and we began our daily practices at 6:30 in the evening, with Cheito as the fútbol capitan. As it turns out, one of the best players on the team was taught by my neighbor, Hito! The team captain and all of San Miguel hail Hito as the town’s best player. My excitement keeps building.
In the weeks coming, I’ll be visiting the surrounding cities like Juan Gil, La Mesa, La Chopa, Carriazo and a few others in order to solicit and recruit players and teams, and also receive permission to use the field in La Mesa. In order to do all of this, I must first print out little flyer/information sheets, applications for the players and some sponsor and donor materials I’ve produced about the tournament. I will hand these out, hang information at the stores and bars, etc. and mail information to potential donors. I’ll be doing all of this while at Hispania in the city with internet and printer access.
The reason I’ve created sponsor packets and donor material is because without my being told, the Kalu Yala San Miguel Soccer Team definitely needs uniforms, or more importantly, shoes! All or most of the kids and people in this village only own sandals or crocs… . During practice, I witness people sharing one pair of shoes and at least 4 guys a night injuring themselves and bleeding due to lack of proper soccer equipment. I tell them I don’t want this; they tell me “This is nothing. We do this every day. It’s okay. In real games, it’s worse.” I nod skeptically, and realize how it is more important for me to find sponsors and donors for these people to get new soccer goals, balls, uniforms and shoes.
I have a really good feeling about how this project/tournament will turn out and its impact on the Kalu Yala Community Outreach program’s repoire with not only the San Miguel community, but the San Martin County and its communities as a whole. This I feel is very important before any construction begins in the mountains, as you want to have good relations with the natives before changing the face of their land.