Have old jerseys taking up space in the attic or soccer balls cluttering the garage? Students at Myers Park High School can take them off your hands, all while working to change the lives of kids in Tanzania, Africa.
The students are part of the Myers Park chapter of The Foundation For Tomorrow, a nonprofit started by Charlotte local Meghann Gundermann that works to provide scholarships to boarding schools for students in Tanzania who have aged out of orphanages. The club has been active at Myers Park for around six years, thus far raising funds to provide scholarship money for a boy named Richard, who’s on schedule to graduate next school year.
Now the chapter is branching out and is working to help other students in Tanzania who go to school with Richard with “Jambo to Jerseys,” a drive to provide students with jerseys and soccer balls for sports at the school.
“Our goal is to have a jersey for each kid at the school,” sophomore Sarah Cline, the club’s secretary, said. “At the beginning of the school year, they receive a bundle, mostly including things like school supplies, socks, things like that. Next year, we want to have a jersey included.”
Sarah, along with the club’s president Mary Jordan Carpenter and director of community service Keenan Caddell, all said the group is working to make the kids in Tanzania happy. Jerseys, which are a rare commodity in Tanzania, are not necessarily a need, but more of a want. And while soccer is one of their favorite past times, soccer balls are even more rare, leaving the kids to create their own balls – typically with wadded up plastic bags wrapped with rubber bands.
The group has been running a drive at the school, which started the first week of February and ends Friday, March 1, but they still need more supplies to reach their goal.
So far, the group has gathered nearly 200 jerseys and around 30 to 40 soccer balls.
“Our goal is to get 400 jerseys so we can have one for every student at the school in Tanzania and then some leftover so they can have extras,” Sarah said. “We also wanted to get 50 soccer balls – we just thought that would be a nice number to have.”
Jerseys and soccer balls both can be gently used because, as the students explained, in Tanzania any jersey or soccer ball is better than none.
“We are trying to extend TFFT’s mission even further – from needs to wants – that’s what we are trying to do,” Keenan, a sophomore at Myers Park, said. “That’s important because items like jerseys and soccer balls are foreign to them over there. To be able to make that difference is huge to us.”
Though the drive at Myers Park is ending, they are still accepting donations and also are partnering with the Harris YMCA soccer program for the drive. The group reached out to Dan Parker, sports director at Harris, to help spread the word for the drive.
And while the soccer season at the YMCA just kicked-off, Parker said the timing for the drive was just right. He’s helping spread the word to soccer parents and families at the YMCA, encouraging them to donate their old jerseys and soccer balls on either March 16 or April 13. Both days Myers Park TFFT will be set up near the Harris soccer fields during the Saturday games to collect and spread awareness of TFFT’s mission.
“This is a huge opportunity,” Keenan said. “There are already a ton of families who play soccer and they have so many jerseys they don’t need.”
Parker said the YMCA has done several events like the jersey drive in the past, but never with the Myers Park TFFT group. He said parents and families have been really
receptive with the drives in the past, making good use of old gear.
“I think it really fits in with what we do at the YMCA. We do a lot of things in the community so we like to give back,” Parker said. “We want to help Myers Park get as much stuff as we can. Instead of giving
money, our families can give back and give things their kids no longer use to kids who can use them … and make good use of all the old jerseys.”