The world of charity giving and service learning is ever-changing in schools. In the schools and districts I have worked in, the pendulum has swung back and forth between localized, very school-centric initiatives and global initiatives as part of a massive network of young people around the world.
My first memories of giving in schools is tied to UNICEF boxes at Halloween. The program, which was discontinued in Canada a decade ago, had children collect coins along with candy when they went out for Halloween. In today’s schools it is hard to find young people not familiar with WE Day, We Charity (formerly Free the Children) and their related entities. It has been an incredible model to watch grow. It has combined star power, amazing energy and a huge infrastructure and organization, to help engage young people in service learning and charity.
While my first memories are of the orange UNICEF boxes, and the WE opportunities are dominant in many schools, there have forever been and continue to be amazing smaller organizations doing thoughtful work, that are worth celebrating. I want to tell you about one of them – Freekicks.
It is a professional development day in West Vancouver and the local soccer fields are humming. When I get there the rain is coming down pretty good, but nobody really notices. The fields are full of elementary aged boys and girls playing soccer. The players have been assigned to represent a variety of nations for the day – from Canada to Cameroon.
The teams are made up from a cross-section of students from schools – the tournament features students from across West Vancouver, as well as from a number of inner-city schools in Vancouver. Of course, you would never know as all the students are wearing the same new uniforms. In talking with founder Adam Aziz and other organizers, I learn some of the students who came today had never been over the Lions Gate Bridge. Soccer is a vehicle to connect students – it is the “Spirit of Togetherness” that is being celebrated. There is no class system here, everyone has the same uniforms, the same pancake breakfast, the same lunches and the group is united around sport. Local businesses have come together to support the event, high school students were volunteering as coaches and officials, and already plans are in the works to make it bigger next year. What a great way to use the common language of soccer to bring young people together as teammates who may not normally ever connect – and realize just how much they have in common.
This wasn’t my first experience with Freekicks. I learned of them a couple years ago when our then-principal, Scott Wallace, invited me to visit Gleneagles Elementary School. And what I saw was pretty amazing:
Two inspired soccer players Lucas & Trevor Robertson started their own Freekicks Academy in their local community. They were inspired by what Freekicks had achieved and wanted to be a part of the team. Their vision is to help other kids play soccer. The boys started in the backyard of their home, they set-up drills, exercises and created activities and sessions for the local players in their neighborhood. They have raised over $850 to date through raffles and donations to support children around the world. (Source)
We need organizations like UNICEF, the United Way, WE, and others who tackle changes on a large scale across our communities and around the world. And we also need to celebrate all of the organizations like Freekicks and the power that one person, or a group of people with a big idea can make a positive dent in our world.
We need to foster these opportunities – built often around individual passions and a commitment to make change. As Freekicks shows, and as we see all the time, Margaret Mead is continually proven correct, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”