sports changing the world
Sports provide unique opportunities in a child’s life; sometimes, they are the only opportunity some children have to escape poverty. The following is a list of four sports organizations that are changing the world by using sports and sport-driven programs to help youth and communities across the globe enact social change and improve their impoverished situations.

Lengo Football Academy

Lengo Football Academy offers impoverished children and orphans in Tanzania opportunities through football. Emanuel Saakai started the first Lengo (Swahili for ‘goal’) Academy in the northern town of Arusha to give new opportunities to disadvantaged and street kids (both boys and girls). Saakai believes that the hard work necessary to excel in sports helps youths instill a sense of teamwork, respect and passion that will then translate to successes in other avenues of their lives. He has since created an eight-week program in Australia — where he acts as a qualified Football Federation Australia coach — whose proceeds go toward the program in Tanzania.

Lengo Football Academy helps its youth off the field as well. All of its participants are financially aided through primary and secondary education by Lengo. More importantly, enrollment in school is a requirement to participate in Lengo, ensuring its young footballers will go to class.

Lengo is also developing a 12-month employment program for graduating students to combat the rampant unemployment in Tanzania. The graduating students will be able to take jobs as coaches, referees, drivers, administrators and operators. They are also provided money management skills to ensure they are on their way to developing stable, successful lifestyles after the program ends.


The task of love.fútbol is to create durable, low-maintenance fútbol pitches in impoverished communities around the world. It is a community-driven endeavor. It provides the raw materials and support, but it insists that the local community helps with the building projects. For its inaugural build in Guatemala, love.fútbol saw a 90 percent participation rate in the rural village of Villa Nueva.

Love.fútbol is about more than sport. During the building process, it works with each community using asset mapping exercises to help the communities identify and use their strengths to their full potential. It also develops social capital networks, engaging the community to “connect with shared resources, building collective goodwill and strengthening relationships across numerous local individuals and organizations.” Love.fútbol and its 5,800 volunteers have had an impact on 29 communities in 8 different countries since its inception, using sports and play to bring about social change in poor communities across the globe.

Street Football World

Street Football World is like Love.fútbol in that it uses football and the model of community-driven football projects to enact social change. It even joined forces with love.fútbol in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Street Football World strives to use football-driven programs to enact social change around the world in eight key areas, ranging from employability and education to health and the environment. Street Football World even creates ‘pop-up’ stadiums and arenas for communities to use for special events and programs, providing theatres of play for impoverished youths in underprivileged areas.

The organization has a multitude of programs that span all seven continents, aiding and enabling millions of people all across the world by using football as a catalyst. Street Football World partners with a number of football institutions, companies, governments and foundations, ranging from FIFA to The U.S. Department of State. It was recently chosen as Berlin’s ambassador for Germany’s bid to host the UEFA Euro 2024 games. In 2015, founder and CEO Jürgen Griesbeck was featured alongside Nelson Mandela and Michelle Obama in Beyond Sport’s ‘Inspirational 50,’ a list celebrating those using sport to “push boundaries, inspire generations and ultimately, make the world a better place.”

Beyond Sport

Beyond Sport, based in The U.K., differs from the rest of these four sports organizations that are changing the world in that it is an advocacy group. Beyond Sport is a global organization that advocates and celebrates the use of sports to address social issues with the ultimate goal of making the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals a reality. It works with sports organizations directly, along with governments and businesses alike, on how sports can help achieve both social and business goals and successes.

Over the last decade, it has provided more than $1.5 million in funds and distributed $7 million toward long-term strategic goals. Beyond Sport has a vast network of partners, including the major U.S. sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and WNBA) that boast a whopping 2,822 projects with 2,690 organizations in 154 countries across 56 sports.

These four sports organizations that are changing the world are great examples of how engaging kids in sports activities can not only change the individual lives of those playing but also those in the communities involved. Through sports and community building activities, these organizations are improving lives around the world.

– Nick Hodges

Photo: Flickr

Dominican Baseball Recruitment
American baseball has become increasingly diverse and filled with players not originally from the United States. Major and minor league recruiters set up sophisticated training facilities, or ‘academias,’ throughout Latin America, including the Dominican Republic, aiming to streamline talented students to successful careers in U.S. baseball. The academias function as motivation and preparation for Hispanic youth to bring themselves and their families out of poverty. Since 4 out of 10 are impoverished in the Dominican Republic, baseball is seen as a ticket out. There are many benefits that come from baseball recruitment in the Dominican Republic.

Baseball in the Dominican Republic

More Major League Baseball players come from the Dominican Republic than any other country. In 2016, 134 players came from the country, about one in every 10 major leaguers. In the Dominican Republic, efforts to build the best players begin with children as young as 14 years old.

It is estimated that Dominican players earn roughly $400 million each year from playing baseball, some of which is sent back to the Dominican Republican and reinvested in their economy. This sum makes up a small part of the true financial impact of baseball in the Dominican Republic, as the training academias draw in thousands of aspiring youths — not just Dominicans, but also those from neighboring countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and Cuba. These facilities must be staffed with trainers and equipment, and baseball is estimated to spur the Dominican economy by $1 billion a year.

Pros and Cons

Baseball also plays a socially positive role for Dominicans. Dominican baseball recruitment bonds families and friends towards a common goal, and keeps youth out of troubling activities that could derail futures. Major league players functions as heroes and inspiration—showing those who come from nothing that success is possible. Those who grow up impoverished can make it to the MLB, amass a fortune, and spread the wealth back to their home country.

A downside frequently exists when this type of cultural transplant occurs. On average, only 2 percent of those who enter academias ever make it to the major leagues. Another major issue is the use of performance enhancing drugs on youth to make them more competitive to recruiters — handlers, or agents, stand to benefit from their prodigies’ prowess and success. 

Since players’ signing bonuses range anywhere from $10,000 to over $3 million, with handlers receiving 10 percent – 50 percent of this amount, it’s logical that Dominican players make up 38 percent out of those who test positive for these drugs. In addition, few legal boundaries are in place for how players are handled prior to handling, and often result in vast amounts of corruption among agents.

Back to One’s Roots

Despite these problems, the success of baseball recruitment in the Dominican Republic remains strong. Nelson Cruz, the Seattle Mariners cleanup hitter, is an exemplary illustration of a Dominican player that gives back in meaningful ways. 

Living the good life as an impressive MLB player, he has not forgotten the reality of life for many back home in the Dominican Republic. His family ingrained in him a commitment to doing the right thing, and after his old neighbors and lifelong friends in Las Matas de Santa Cruz lost their home in a fire, he arranged to have a firetruck sent back to his hometown.

“In my community, we didn’t have a firetruck,” Cruz said. “We also needed an ambulance because we don’t have the biggest hospital. When somebody gets sick, or accidents or heart attacks, any emergency, we had to transport those people in trucks or SUVs, nothing that can give you the medical attention you need.”  In the U.S., we take things like emergency medical response for granted, but this is often not the case in many Latin American countries. Cruz’s donation has reportedly helped save many lives and changed the landscape of his home country.

Living the Dream

Cruz has also arranged a scholarship program to help combat some of the issues with baseball recruitment. Oftentimes, recruits leave school and sign a three-year contract but never make it to the big leagues, leaving them with nothing and no education. Cruz helped create a scholarship program to help these youth obtain an online diploma in an attempt to ease the transition for Hispanic youth whose baseball dreams fail to take them to full athletic success. 

This story of one of many Hispanic players giving back to their home countries facing extreme poverty demonstrates the positive cycle spurred by baseball recruitment in Latin America. This sport helps bring underdeveloped countries out of extreme poverty and can act as a beacon of hope for Hispanic youth.

– Jilly Fox

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Samoa

Located in the region of the world known as Oceania, the islands of Samoa make up a nation that has been able to successfully sustain its economy since gaining its independence from New Zealand in 1961. A nation known for its sacred family values, the island of roughly 195,000 citizens is largely dependent on its agricultural and fishing industries.

In recent years, the island nation has been highlighted in the media for its obesity epidemic, due to the nation’s low Per Capita Income of $5,965. This has caused many families to turn to cheap food products, which are usually high in calories, in order to survive. In spite of the nation’s ongoing struggle with its obesity issue, what may often be overlooked is how the media misrepresents Samoa.

History of Samoa: A Future with Promise

Samoa is a nation composed of citizens that have withstood colonization as well as threats from natural disasters, such as the 2009 earthquake in the Pacific that induced a tsunami. The nation’s current GDP is roughly $830 million, which is not a substantial amount of money for the economy.

However, in recent years, the nation has made several milestones that allude to economic progressions, such as joining the World Trade Organization. The nation has also advocated more for women’s rights by developing a quota system to ensure that more women receive the opportunity to participate in governmental affairs.

How the Media Misrepresents Samoa

Although Samoa has its domestic challenges to overcome, the island has long been producing some of the most talented athletes the world has ever seen. The media misrepresents Samoa by shedding light on the nation’s obesity epidemic, rather than on the athletic talent that has given a good reputation to the nation.

Samoa is referred to as “Football Island” because of the significant number of American NFL football players that come from there. Samoan men have been recognized for their athletic capabilities over the years and have been recruited to football and rugby teams in New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

Two such athletes are Jordan Cameron, who played for the Miami Dolphins, and Malcom Floyd, who played for the San Diego Chargers. Both men were nominated for the 2015 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award.

Women have also made their mark in the sports industry. Women athletes have made history for Samoa by winning coveted sports awards. One such award, achieved by Sergeant Latoya N. Marshall, was the Female Athlete of the Year award by the All-Army Sports Office.

Another internationally-recognized female athlete is weightlifter Ele Opeloge, who brought attention to Samoa over the years for her weightlifting performances in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Opeloge was awarded a silver medal for her performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and continues to receive recognition from the media for her achievements.

Tourism: A Promising Industry

Another industry that remains promising for Samoa is the tourism industry. The nation hosts a natural, tropical scenery that attracts people from all over the world, and according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Samoan tourism makes up roughly $207.5 million of the nation’s GDP and 132,000 tourists visited the island nation in the year 2013 alone.

Oceanian culture has also gained a wider international influence, an influence that has the potential to attract more tourists to the region over time. One recent example is with the release of the widely successful Disney film “Moana,” an animation about a figurative princess from the island of Tahiti that has grossed over $600 million.

As Samoa continues to rise above its struggles with domestic obesity, a weak economy and threats from nature, the nation shows great promise. Several industries have brought the nation positive recognition in the international media, overshadowing the multiple ways that the media misrepresents Samoa.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Flickr

Soccer and Poverty
Nelson Mandela once said, “sport has the power to change the world.” If that’s true, the four billion soccer fans around the globe today hold the greatest amount of power. Soccer enjoys a popularity level almost double that of the next most popular sport.

Inherent in that popularity is a responsibility to give back, to use that influence to impact some of those who hold the sport in the highest esteem — the world’s poor. In truth, soccer and poverty often exist together, but poverty is the unwanted relative that has overstayed its welcome.

Soccer’s Best Pitch

Soccer and poverty may meet on level ground, but some organizations dig their cleats into the earth, and find traction against a familiar foe. Franco Silva — who created the organization Kizazi which fights poverty at its root through micro loans furnished through the purchase of soccer balls — understands that soccer not only unites, but for many, forms identity.

“When people are young, we tend to tie our identities—who we are—to what we do, to what we’re good at. We define ourselves with external things,” he said.

What happens when those external things cease to be? For many people living in developing countries, especially youth who have difficulty finding jobs, the ennui of the day-to-day necessitates a healthy outlet.

A Healthy Outlet

In Tanzania, that outlet is a football (soccer) program called Lengo, which provides player sponsorship and positive role models that ensure continuation of education and enough capital for families to start small businesses; in other words, a positive step in breaking the cycle of poverty.

In Uganda, the nonprofit Soccer Impact Uganda focuses on the development needs of impoverished communities. What starts as an activity that brings communities together soon snowballs into long-term projects like:

  • installing reserve water systems
  • finding alternative sources of energy
  • providing medical care
  • delivering textbooks and other educational materials, and
  • helping with construction and renovation projects.

Halfway around the world from Uganda, the Mexican Soccer Federation launched the “11 Plays for Health” to promote healthy habits in vulnerable communities based on a similarly named strategy that parts of Africa have already successfully implemented.

The power of soccer has extended to the revolutionary in places like Cairo, Egypt, where the cheers of a football tournament can drown out the angry noise of violent political protests.

In fact, soccer and poverty go so hand-in-hand that an actual tournament exists called the Homeless World Cup. The foundation was created in 2003 and now hosts teams from over 75 countries, all of whose citizens have faced homelessness and social marginalization in one form or another.

Other Sports that have Joined the Fight

At the very least, sports initiatives are doing their part to oust poverty. From Nairobi, Kenya, where youth meet weekly to do yoga, to Jakarta, Indonesia, where a badminton tournament strives to instill leadership skills and confidence in a nation’s youth, a war has been waged between sports and poverty.

At the heart of this war, grass roots initiatives and innovation take command. Soccer and poverty both cling to desperation, but a new front line stands ready to strike.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

Philanthropists in American Professional SportsThere are many American athletes who are not only known for their athletic abilities but also their philanthropic efforts. Here are four of the most impactful:

Roger Federer
Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017, Roger Federer has seen a career in professional tennis filled with success. His remarkable performance on the court was closely rivaled by his humanitarian efforts over the years. The Roger Federer Foundation works in six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Switzerland, to improve struggling educational systems. In 2016, the foundation spent over $6 million to improve access to and quality of early education for impoverished children. Federer serves as a shining example of how charity and sports can successfully go hand-in-hand.

Madieu Williams
Madieu Williams is a former NFL safety who played for multiple teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings. Williams grew up in Sierra Leone in West Africa and moved to the U.S. when he was nine years old. He created the Madieu Williams Foundation in 2006 and returns to Sierra Leone every year to help improve education and build schools. The Madieu Williams Foundation also focuses on improving the health of children living in poverty in both Sierra Leone and in the U.S. Williams has also donated $2 million to build the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives at the University of Maryland.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born basketball player in NBA history. Born in Germany, Nowitzki came to America to play professional basketball as a young adult and has since been named an all-star 13 times. Nowitzki was the first European player to play in an NBA all-star game in 2007, and as his career took off, so did his philanthropic efforts. In 2013, Nowitzki was named the German ambassador for UNICEF, with a focus on eliminating child hunger and malnutrition around the world. He also started the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, which works to fight poverty and hunger in Africa.

David Ortiz
Born in the Dominican Republic, David Ortiz came to America and saw a long, prosperous baseball career, winning two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox. One of the greatest to play the game of baseball, Ortiz is also one of the most dedicated philanthropists in American professional sports. Ortiz has always prioritized improving the quality of – and the ease of access to – healthcare for children. The David Ortiz Children’s Fund works in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. and has a focus on providing adequate healthcare to impoverished children with congenital heart defects.

Regardless of team affiliation, these athletes are using their fame and their platforms to make a real and tangible difference in the fight against global poverty. In addition to these efforts, the awareness they raise surrounding these issues has surely inspired – and will continue to inspire – others to contribute to the fight against poverty and make a difference.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Refugee AthletesPreceding the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced that a team of 10 refugee athletes would be allowed to compete in the games and carry the Olympic flag. The team was called Team Refugee Olympic Athletes and was treated just like any other Olympic team.

By allowing the refugee athletes to be a part of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the IOC is hoping to give hope to refugees everywhere.

“Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a news release. “They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”

While these athletes now have a chance to be a part of a team in uncertain times, Visa, the world’s largest payments network, saw that there was an even bigger opportunity for comradery. Team Visa is a network of Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are sponsored by Visa.

In July 2016, all 10 refugee Olympic athletes signed on to become a part of Team Visa. Through the partnership, the refugee athletes are supported in their athletic journey’s and in turn, help Visa to promote a culture of acceptance.

According to Chris Curtin, Visa’s Chief Marketing Innovation and Brand Officer, the perseverance the refugee Olympic athletes is inspiring not only Visa, but the world. The bravery that allowed the athletes to get to the Olympic games and march with the Olympic flag directly embodies Visa’s belief in acceptance for everyone, everywhere.

While the Rio Games proved a success for the refugee athletes and Team Visa overall, neither party shows sign of stopping there. On July 9, 2017, the IOC confirmed that a Refugee Olympic Team will compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Team Visa’s involvement with the athletes has not yet been confirmed, but a source says they are looking to extend relationships.

“We are committed to sustaining our message of acceptance worldwide and are exploring longer term partnership opportunities with the IOC on their Olympic Solidarity Initiatives, and with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on their refugee development programs,” a spokesperson told The Wrap. “We are also exploring contract renewals for select Team Visa athletes in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

Madeline Boeding
Photo: Flickr

While the Wimbledon Tennis Championship has just ended, some of the world’s best athletes’ work doesn’t end on the court. Martina Hingis, a 2017 winner of the Wimbledon Doubles league, has promoted and discussed her ‘fourth career’ as an ambassador for Right to Play. Right to Play is one of many nonprofit organizations promoting sports to empower and educate children from poor backgrounds. Here are four organizations ending poverty through sport:

  1. Ball to All
    Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ball to All is an organization that provides soccer balls for underprivileged children. Founder Ori Eisen created the charity in 2003 after providing a friend, Nikolas Mangu, with five soccer balls before his travels back to his home country of Kenya. When Nikolas delivered the balls to a local school, the children celebrated the simple gift.

    Since the first delivery, Ball to All has delivered 9,426 balls to children of developing nations. Ball to All is one of the organizations ending poverty through sport by providing the basic tools for childhood development. Ball to All ambassadors believes that the organization provides children more than just a tool for play. They also believe, by taking part in sports, children are less likely to be negatively influenced by extremist groups, are made to feel important and are kept out of trouble.

  2. Peace Players International
    Peace Players International (PPI) uses basketball as a tool to provide unity, education, and inspiration to children around the world. The organization began in Northern Ireland to bridge the divides between religion, prejudice and racism through sport and create greater social cohesion. With great success, the organization spread to 15 countries by 2010 and provided specific programs for each local climate.

    In Jerusalem, where violence and political instability frequently reoccur, PPI uses sport to unite Arab and Jewish youth. However, in South Africa, the focus is more on providing safe and successful outcomes through sport for communities impacted by HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse or high unemployment.

    In a Sport for Development and Peace report, the U.N. states that for sports programs to be successful in creating change in developing countries, the sport must be all inclusive. PPI does just that by focusing on the groups that would not usually have an opportunity to participate in sports leagues or groups that would not usually play together.

  3. Right to Play
    Johann Olav Koss, the four-time Olympic medalist, founded Right to Play in 2000. He was inspired by a humanitarian trip to Eritrea, where the children wanted the same as any other child: to play.

    The organization uses voluntary coaches to implement sports programs educating children about leadership, health issues and employment opportunities. The programs spread across 20 countries and tailor to the specific scenarios of each country.

    By introducing after-school programs to underprivileged areas, Right to Play improved school enrollment and attendance rates. In Rwanda, students who took part in Right to Play’s programs maintained a 95 percent attendance rate in school. With this and many other successes, several governments recognize Right to Play as one of the organizations ending poverty through sport.

    Every week, Right to Play reaches one million youths around the world with half of the children being young girls. By improving schooling outcomes and providing all-inclusive programs that close the gender gap, Right to Play improves opportunities for children in developing economies and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

  4. United Through Sport
    The U.K.-based charity United Through Sport focuses on development through sport. With programs in Africa, South America and upcoming in Asia, United Through Sport provides two main programs to underprivileged youth. The Mass Participation Program provides thousands of children the chance to play whilst promoting health and education. Further, the Schools of Excellence program offers top level coaching and schooling necessary for aspiring athletes.

    With direct coaching, disadvantaged communities obtain health benefits, emotional development and life skills such as decision making and leadership. The organization also delivers an interactive curriculum through sport on serious topics affecting the communities involved. The organization has taught more than 100,000 hours of HIV and AIDS prevention through sports curriculum. Additionally, by providing professional opportunities that would not otherwise be available to the individuals of the program, United Through Sport provides a pathway for dedicated participants to receive scholarships at top local and international schools.

    United Through Sport works with more than 56,000 children and 90 percent of participants of its programs saw academic improvements. The organization has proven to not only provide the basics of child development but also the tools to better the future economic success of the individuals involved. Through its programs, United Through Sport stands as one of the organizations ending poverty through sport.

Sport is being used as a tool for development. While Ball to All, PPI, Right to Play and United Through Sport can’t solve all the issues of developing countries, sport can create positive change. By educating the young and promoting equality for all genders, religions, and creeds, the organizations form inclusive economies. The United Nations has stated that sport is a human right and essential for childhood development. By using sport to reduce poverty, individuals of every age can lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Flickr

In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.

“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.

Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.

Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”

Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.

The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.

In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.

“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.

To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Walton Payton
Super Bowl fever has come and gone, and while Patriots fans can rejoice in their victory, the season is not quite over yet for players on the remaining teams. On Feb. 4, the NFL Honors ceremony awarded many athletes who demonstrated sportsmanship throughout the season. A highlight of this event is always the announcement of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to one football star who takes success outside the stadium to charities most in need.

The Man of the Year Award has been given out since 1970 but was renamed in 1999 to honor Walter Payton, one of the NFL’s most charitable players. In light of his off-field contributions, each team continues to nominate one player demonstrating a significant impact on the global community, and a winner is chosen on the eve of the big game. This year, notables included many causes devoted to global poverty.

Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garçon was nominated for his commitment to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Garçon originally started the Helping Hands Foundation to provide disaster assistance such as building shelters, establishing education systems and coordinating fundraising. Since then, he has returned every year to continue the work of the organization and hopes to create partnerships with other organizations investing in long-term sustainable ideas for Haitian communities.

Another nominee was Sam Acho, a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Acho has been dedicated to the construction of a hospital in Nigeria that would serve more than 30,000 residents in remote rural villages. He has hosted an annual fashion show and celebrity auction since 2012 with all proceeds going to the initiative. He also travels to the affected area frequently to volunteer his efforts physically and financially. Plans show an expected completion date within the next few months.

Lastly, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Cliff Avril volunteered in Haiti because of his family heritage. Throughout the season, he promised to build a house for every sack he recorded. He also worked extensively on a project to build two elementary new schools opening September 2016 and April 2017. As part of this project, Avril funded six classrooms, laid the foundation of the building, erected fence posts for a community garden, hosted a sports camp and donated backpacks, cooking utensils, clothing and even a year’s supply of water. Finally, after Hurricane Matthew, he launched an online campaign to provide food and medical supplies for damaged locations.

While only one of the 32 nominees won the Man of the Year award and the accompanying $500,000 donation to a charity of his choice, all nominees were guaranteed $50,000 to their charity as well. Therefore, regardless of the outcome, the reception of this award closed out the season with a nod to developing communities.

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

tourism in kenyaDuring the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Kenya once again proved its dominance in the realm of track and field. And, the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism hopes that this success will continue to promote one of the fastest growing industries in the world, sports tourism in Kenya.

According to an article published by CNN, tourism in Kenya produces about $6 billion a year, but the recent rise in terrorism has hurt the industry. Government organizations have begun to focus on sports tourism as a solution to this downturn in the country’s economy.

The beauty, history and culture of East African countries, combined with the popularity of their native athletes has allowed sports tourism in Kenya to prosper in the past few years. Fatuma Hirsi Mohamed, the principal secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, stated, “our sportspeople put the country on the global map.”

Kenyan middle-distance runner David Rudisha, commonly known as “the King”, solidified his place as one of the greatest athletes in the world when he won the men’s 800-meter race in Rio, his second gold medal in that event after setting the world record during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. However, Rudisha is not only known for his abilities on the track, but he has also become one of Kenya’s most prominent ambassadors for tourism.

Kenya offers attractions for all types of tourists, including world-class athletes, dedicated fans and curious travelers. The famous town of Iten, Kenya located in the Great Rift Valley is one of the country’s most popular destinations. This high altitude attraction is most famous for being the training ground of countless decorated Olympic runners, including Rudisha. Lornah Kiplagat, a world champion runner, founded Iten’s High Altitude Training Center, which is now visited by both training Olympians and casual runners from across the world.

While Iten is an enormous draw for many tourists, Kenya is looking to expand the industry by building on many of their already popular events. The annual Maralal Camel Derby is a world-renowned race that attracts local and international spectators, with all proceeds going toward local communities. The Lewa Marathon, which is known as one of the world’s toughest marathons, also raises money for conservation and community projects.

The country is hopeful that sports tourism in Kenya will be a viable industry heading into the future. The country will continue to host sports events and clinics, while star athletes such as David Rudisha inspire fans to visit and experience the beautiful home of Olympic legends.

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr