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Students promote peace through soccer in Brazil

As native South Americans, College of Idaho juniors Mauricio Santiago and Luis Reyes know firsthand how poverty impacts their homeland. Santiago and Reyes also know of their culture’s deep love of soccer, an affection they plan to use to help impoverished children this summer through their Davis Project for Peace, “Peace Me the Ball.” 

The two students will travel to Santiago’s hometown of Lauro Freitas, Brazil thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Davis Foundation. From July 30 to August 25, the students will coach soccer and help teach children – including homeless street kids, public school students and residents of the local SOS Children’s Village– about the dangers of drugs and delinquency through conflict resolution seminars and other activities aimed at developing tolerance, respect, humility and honesty.

“Luis and I really care about our Latin American communities,” said Santiago, who is majoring in business, language and culture at the C of I. “Most of these kids are homeless, and it’s hard to see those situations. We want to use soccer to educate kids and get them to use their talents for the best.”

Like many Latin American boys, Santiago and Reyes played soccer growing up. They met while attending an international high school in Costa Rica and both came to the C of I as Davis United World College Scholars. Their inspiration for “Peace Me the Ball” came while watching a group of shoeless boys kick an old ball around on the dusty streets of Havana on a recent visit to Cuba.

“We just thought about how people are investing in our education in the U.S. and how there are a million boys just like us back home who will not have that chance,” said Reyes, a native of Lima, Peru who is studying anthropology, sociology and political economy at C of I. “At that point, we agreed we should use the resources and opportunities we had if it could help even a small number of people.” 

In preparation for their trip to Brazil, Santiago and Reyes created a project Facebook page and organized two on-campus fundraisers: a PlayStation tournament and a 7-on-7 soccer tournament. They also received support from professors, the International Student Organization and community members. The soccer equipment purchased with the extra funds will be left in Brazil at the end of the project in hopes that “Peace Me the Ball” will grow and be replicated throughout Latin America, similar to programs such as “Girls on the Run” here in the United States.

“It’s wonderful to see the passion that students put into these Davis Projects for Peace,” said Rob Dayley, a professor of political economy who also advises the Davis United World College Scholars program at the C of I. “Mauricio and Luis are wholly dedicated to their idea and its merits. Soccer is a great hook to bring kids together to teach important life skills. I know Mauricio and Luis will become great role models to the young boys in Brazil who benefit from their efforts.”

The College of Idaho now has had a Davis Project for Peace funded in each of the last five years.  Students previously completed projects in Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt and Ecuador. To learn more about Davis Projects for Peace, visit www.davisprojectsforpeace.org.

All donations to “Peace Me the Ball” are welcome and tax deductible. To donate, call (208) 559-4457 or email peacemetheballproject@yahoo.com.

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including six Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 11 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.