People cheer for athletes when they score touchdowns or goals, but there is much more to cheer for. Athletes are some of the most charitable individuals in the world. Many athletes are using their money, time and influence to impact communities in need both locally and globally. Here are five athletes making a difference around the world.

5 Athletes Making a Difference

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo: One of the most well-known and successful soccer players in the world is Cristiano Ronaldo. While his list of sports accolades is expansive, many are not aware that his humanitarian works are equally impressive. Since his rise to prominence, Ronaldo has been an advocate of various causes, ranging from the prevention of AIDS/HIV to slavery and human trafficking. Ronaldo was awarded the title of the most charitable athlete by’s campaign “AthletesGoneGood” in 2015. Ronaldo currently serves as an ambassador for Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision. In a recent display of activism, on March 24, 2020, Ronaldo donated $1.08 million to 3 hospitals in Portugal, working to fight COVID-19 in the country.
  2. Serena Williams: On the tennis court, Serena Williams is one of the world’s greatest players but outside of her matches, she spends much of her time dedicated to philanthropy. Williams currently serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Through this role, she works to establish schools in an effort to provide quality education for vulnerable children through UNICEF’s Africa program and Schools for Asia initiative. Williams has volunteered since 2015 to help immunize children in Ghana. She has also assisted in spreading the Largest Lesson. This program works to spread knowledge about how to combat global issues such as inequality, injustice, extreme poverty and climate change. Additionally, Williams runs her own charity called “The Serena Williams Fund,” which works to impact a variety of issues around the world ranging from race relations to inequity.
  3. Serge Ibaka: NBA player Serge Ibaka is committed to helping children both locally, in his immediate Toronto area, and globally by assisting The Republic of Congo and other impoverished countries around the world. Ibaka, who grew up in the Republic of Congo, founded the Serge Ibaka Foundation because he recognized the need for adequate education and health to provide children with an avenue to a successful future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization implemented a relief program in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. The organization has currently gathered 80 tons of food, which is expected to impact 8,000 families in the region.
  4. Neymar Jr.: Soccer player Neymar Jr. has dedicated the majority of his humanitarian work to assisting impoverished Brazilian communities in an effort to ensure that they have access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) facilities. In 2014, he partnered with Waves for Water, which works to bring clean water to vulnerable communities in the country. In April 2020, it was revealed that Neymar donated $950,000 to UNICEF and Paris-Saint-Germain to assist in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil.
  5. Yuna Kim: Since the start of her career, South Korean figure skater, Yuna Kim, has not only been passionate about her craft but also aware of the importance of helping those in need. Kim was a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and, through her position, she has been an advocate for helping those affected by natural disasters. She donated $83,000 to Haiti in 2010 after an earthquake ravaged the country. After a similar natural disaster impacted the people of Nepal, Kim donated $100,000 to help. Yuna Kim has taken her charity work as an opportunity to carry out her faith, by donating her money to a variety of Catholic hospitals and charities in Seoul, Korea, and by giving a large sum of money to the missionaries of Salesian of Don Bosco in South Sudan. These missionaries work to establish schools and assist vulnerable populations in the war-torn country.

Athletes are well known for more than just their abilities on the court, in the field or on the ice. Many athletes use their money to help people in need around the world. When it comes to these athletes, there is more to cheer for than the points they score.

Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Sports have always been integral in society. They serve as an outlet for many to escape their daily troubles and exist as a way to unify groups of people. Athletes in modern times are lauded for their skill and their lavish lifestyles. However, the truth of the matter is that many of these competitors did not grow up with the privileges they have earned today. These are five athletes that rose from poverty.

5 Athletes Who Rose From Poverty

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo: Hailed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldo did not have an easy upbringing. Ronaldo was born in a poor neighborhood in Fungal, Portugal in 1985. His father was an equipment manager at a local soccer club while his mother was a cook and a housekeeper. Ronaldo did not grow up with much but grew fond of soccer because of his father’s profession. After being recruited by a local boys’ soccer club, Ronaldo left his family to go to Lisbon at the age of 12. Despite being frequently ostracized due to his thick accent, Ronaldo kept surging forward. At age 16, Manchester United signed Ronaldo to a more than $14 million contract. This was the largest ever given to a player his age. Ronaldo went on to win a plethora of awards and accolades for his feats in soccer. Outside of soccer, Ronaldo has been extremely charitable. In 2015, Ronaldo donated more than $6 million to help those impacted by the earthquake in Nepal. Ronaldo also worked to improve medical facilities in Portugal. His net worth currently sits at $460 million, making Ronaldo the wealthiest of these five athletes who rose from poverty.
  2. Jose Aldo: A renowned UFC fighter, Aldo is another athlete that vanquished the detrimental effects of poverty. Aldo was born into a poor household in the city of Manaus in Brazil. Aldo’s father was a bricklayer while his mother was a housewife. Love tied the family of six together, but that took a turn when his mother and father split when Aldo was young. Aldo stayed with his father. Frequent street fights prompted Aldo to learn capoeira. Despite being talented, capoeira classes were draining his finances, so he moved on to pursue jiu-jitsu with his mentor, Marcio Pontes. At age 17, Aldo went to Rio de Janeiro without a dime to his name. There were days when he had little to no food, but this did not disrupt his resolve. Aldo currently holds the most wins in UFC and WEC featherweight history. He is a two-time UFC Featherweight Champion and one-time WEC Featherweight Champion. Outside of the ring, Aldo also routinely performs charity work and donates funds to help those in need. In 2015, Aldo played in a charity soccer match in his home country to raise food for people in need; it was immensely successful.
  3. Kassim Ouma: A former professional boxer, Kassim Ouma has, perhaps, the most appalling story out of these five athletes who rose from poverty. Born into extreme poverty in Uganda in 1978, Ouma’s life was already very difficult. At the age of five, he was kidnapped from his family and forced to join the National Resistance Army. Ouma was trained to do horrific things that no child should have to bear. Ouma did not see his family for three years. In 1998, Ouma was considered to have deserted the Ugandan army because of his venture to the U.S. to compete in a boxing tournament. Ouma pursued boxing to make money and ensure that his family never has to share his experiences. Ouma went on to win the IBF world junior middleweight title in 2004. He serves as an activist for global issues surrounding poverty despite being unable to physically return to Uganda. Furthermore, in 2006, Ouma started a charity called Natabonic Incorporated to help the needy in Uganda.
  4. Yasiel Puig: Surrounded by poverty and suboptimal living conditions, Yasiel Puig had longed to go to the United States and play baseball from an early age. Puig was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Puig played baseball for Cuba, but he only earned $17 per month due to the impoverished conditions as a product of the Castro dictatorship. As a result, Puig became desperate to go to the U.S. and play baseball there. In June 2012, when he was successfully smuggled to Mexico by an illicit group with ties to the drug cartel, Los Zetas. Through negotiations with the president of two Miami companies, Raul Pacheco, Puig was released and went on to play for the Dodgers. In the field, Puig founded the Wild Horse Children Foundation to inspire children in less affluent communities and ensure that they do not struggle with the same things that he did.
  5. Bibiano Fernandes: The last of these five athletes who rose from poverty is Bibiano Fernandes. His resilience can be attributed to his early life struggles. Like Jose Aldo, Fernandes was born in Manaus, Brazil. His mother died when Fernandes was seven years old and his father left his five kids because he could not provide for them. After scavenging and begging on the streets, Fernandes went hunting for food in the Amazon forest. He and his siblings stayed there for several years. Fernandes returned to the city after contracting an illness that nearly killed him. He discovered jiu-jitsu while washing car windows at a streetlight near a dojo. After some assistance from a friend, Fernandes was able to partake in lessons at the dojo and soon became a top student. He evolved into one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in the world, winning three championships. He has since taken up MMA fighting with a Canadian mentor.

Sports are an avenue for athletes to get their stories heard. These five athletes who rose from poverty are a small sample of athletes who have endured a significant amount to attain success. As acclaimed Olympian, Emil Zatopek once said, “An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head”.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Cristiano Ronaldo's Selfie App
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s star forward and Global Artist Ambassador for Save the Children, recently released his latest initiative for the organization, the CR7Selfie: Fans with a Cause app.

According to Save the Children’s website, Cristiano Ronaldo’s selfie app costs $1.99 and will allow fans to “take a selfie with Ronaldo in one of several different outfits and poses.” A portion of all money raised from the app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App and Google Play stores, will go toward the non-profit organization.

Save the Children, which was founded in 1932, focuses on providing children in 120 countries around the world with proper education, food and health services, especially in the wake of natural disasters or war. In 2015, Save the Children delivered health care to 22.6 million children, and 11.6 million children participated in the organization’s nutrition programs.

Ronaldo has represented Save the Children as an ambassador since January 2013, directing his attention to the worldwide issue of child hunger. The athlete first realized that he wanted to join the fight against poverty when he learned that one in seven children go to bed hungry every night.

Over the past few years, it has become common for advocates to utilize social media. More than 230 million people follow Ronaldo on his various accounts, which allows Save the Children’s message to spread quickly. Cristiano Ronaldo’s selfie app — The CR7Selfie: Fans with a Cause app — puts this same strategy to use, allowing users to have fun sharing their selfies with the superstar while also supporting the organization’s mission.

Ronaldo is one of the most admired athletes on the planet, making him an expert when it comes to taking selfies. During the premiere of his documentary Ronaldo, he even tried to break the world record for most selfies taken in three minutes. Ultimately, Ronaldo failed in this endeavor, but his widespread popularity could make the new app a huge success.

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Athletes
Athletes spend numerous hours during the week training and preparing for their next matches, games and adventures. Through their unmatched hard work, they are able to capture titles while simultaneously building a career and global fame.

Going above and beyond, many athletes use their popular status and successful careers to improve the world around them. These four humanitarian athletes utilize their fame and the small amount of free time they have to contribute to global charities.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Professional Soccer Forward)
    Ronaldo is known as one of the most generous athletes in the world. He often donates his bonus checks and portions of his salary to various charities and countries in need of reconstruction and help. For example, he donates millions of dollars to foundations like UNICEF and “World Vision,” which aim to enhance the lives of children in impoverished countries through the enhancement of health and education. When he’s not sweating on the field, he also takes time to physically participate in fundraising campaigns.
  2. Serena Williams (Professional Tennis Player)
    When Williams isn’t grinding on the court winning grand slams, she’s looking to improve the status of the world’s poor. She was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 because of her commitment to helping the youth around the globe. In 2010, Williams announced the New Schools for Asia Campaign under UNICEF, which looks to provide children in the Asia-Pacific area with schooling. Around the world, there are 67 million people who are not enrolled in school. Of those 67 million people, 26 million live in the Asia-Pacific area. UNICEF’s executive director talked about Serena, explaining that she “isn’t just a tennis champion, she is a champion for children—and a passionate advocate for providing every child with a quality education.”
  3. David Beckham (Professional Soccer Midfielder)
    Beckham was also appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. His focus under UNICEF is the Unite Against AIDS campaign. After visiting Sierra Leone in 2007, he said, “In Sierra Leone, one in four children dies before reaching their fifth birthday – it’s shocking and tragic especially when the solutions are simple – things like vaccinations against measles or using a mosquito net to reduce the chance of getting malaria.” Beckham hopes to draw attention to the safety and health of children through his global presence.
  4. Jessica Watson (Sailor)
    Watson is known for circumnavigating the globe solo at the age of 16. Now at the age of 23, she continues to the explore the world as a representative for the World Food Program. This humanitarian athlete focuses her time and energy on Laos, saying, “At age 16 I achieved my dream. I want the school children in Laos to be able to achieve their dream. And stopping hunger is the first step in that process.”

Watson works with the School Meals program, making sure that kids in school are able to eat a nutritious meal every day. Global hunger affects 1 out of 7 people in the world. Jessica Watson, along with the World Food Program, aims to help 80 million people in 80 different countries combat lack of food.

These four humanitarian athletes have been able to use their global status to make a positive difference. By representing various foundations, they are not only able to raise awareness of global crises to fans around the world, but their use of fame also makes fighting global poverty a little easier.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Here are three footballers who care about global poverty:

1. Lionel Messi: Argentine Footballer Lionel Messi became UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. Messi concentrates on areas dealing mostly with children’s rights. In Nov. of 2013, Messi held a campaign with UNICEF to celebrate his son turning 1. “Last November I received the best gift ever: the birth of my son Thiago. For his first birthday, help me to help all boys and girls have equal opportunities to live, grow, and develop”. The campaign helped raise awareness for children who are in need of life’s basic needs: food, water shelter, and love. Also, in 2007, Messi started the Leo Messi Foundation to help children gain access to health and education.  This foundation assists children in Spain gain access to treatment, transportation and hospital costs.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo: Portuguese Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo donated a golden boot he had won to the Real Madrid Foundation. The Boot estimated at $2 million was auctioned off and the proceeds of the boot went to the construction of a school for children in Gaza. The Real Madrid Foundation has funded over 167 schools in 66 countries.   In 2013, Ronaldo became Global Artist ambassador for Save the Children. His primary focus is on child hunger and obesity. “When I learned that 1 in 7 kids around the world go to bed hungry each night, I jumped at the chance to get involved”(Ronaldo).
3. David Beckham: English Footballer David Beckham became Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF in 2005. The British soccer star works regularly with the organization. Beckham has visited a shelter in Manila for children who were abandoned by their parents. Some children lived on the streets and were beggars before coming to the shelter. “UNICEF is doing great work for the children in Manila” (Beckham).  Beckham is also a proud founding member of the charity Malaria No More UK in London. The charities goal is to get the death rate of malaria down to zero which is in line with the Millennium Development Goals. The foundation focuses on much of Africa where nearly 90 percent of all Malaria cases occur.
Amy Robinson

Sources: Save the Children, UNICEF 1, 2, 2, Wikipedia 1, 2, 3, Digital Journal