Wondo Aiding Homeless Through SoccerEarthquakes Chris Wondolowski and Street Soccer/Santiago Halty Fair Trade Gear
by Luke James | Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Homeless kids huddled in doorways on mean city streets are a long way from the happy kids and their organized leagues at your local school or park.
But they don’t have to be.
Illiterate Third World child laborers, going blind and getting arthritis stitching soccer balls are a long way from the happy, well-fed kids who will be kicking those balls around.
But they don’t have to be.
Wondo and Street Soccer
For the last two years, Earthquakes’ striker Chris Wondolowski has been donating not just money for goals he scores in MLS, but also his time to help Street Soccer, which is a nonprofit organization that helps homeless people of all ages get off the streets and back into society. They do this by organizing soccer training sessions and games for the homeless.
Last year, Wondolowski presented a $5,400 check to Street Soccer USA, $100 for every goal he scored, matched dollar for dollar by the Earthquakes. Later, Wondo acted an honorary assistant coach for a squad of homeless soccer players, including a spell in goal.
Participant Carlos Palacio said that it was great playing with Chris, passing with him, and then scoring a goal against him.
Does Street Soccer work? You bet it does. Street Soccer USA has had an astonishing 75% of participants find both employment and housing, complete a rehabilitation program and increase their educational levels within the first year of participation.
Street Soccer director Rob Cann says that it means the world to their players that there are people out there like Wondolowski who want to see them do well. That to have somebody like Wondo come out to practice shows the homeless players that professional athletes want to see them improve their lives.
Senda Fair Trade and Community
A Bay Area company that also supports Street Soccer is Senda Athletics. In addition to making soccer balls and equipment, Senda are Fair Trade Champions. Despite child labor being illegal, some unethical ball manufacturers still use Third World child labor to manufacture their gear. These children and their families work long hours and collectively often make less than a dollar a day. The children miss out on school and so remain illiterate, they develop arthritis and even go blind stitching balls mostly for the Australian market.
Senda President and Founder Santiago Halty grew up loving soccer in Argentina. Realizing that the equipment used to play the game was not always made in fair conditions, he started Senda in 2010.
Based in Berkeley, Calif., Halty has made it his life’s mission to provide clean, safe, well paid fair trade manufacture situations for the people who make his equipment. Families own their businesses, kids go to school, everyone gets paid, no one suffers, and the kids get time to kick the balls Senda helps make.
Soccer and Community
My recent experience of coaching PAL Youth Soccer has opened my eyes to the vast network of grassroots, dedicated volunteers out there. These are people whose only reward is to watch the joy a child shows when they start to develop ball skills, score a goal, work on a team to achieve their dreams – and have fun! If you’ve never thought you had the time or inclination to volunteer in any way to help kids through soccer, think again. The rewards are way beyond money.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a star player or a business owner or not, you can help make the world a better place through the game we all love.