Bridges to America engages Nigerian youths through soccer
May 1, 2015
Bridges to America, a Park City-based nonprofit that focuses on providing aid to African families, is in the midst of fundraising for its first-ever Save-A-Thon for Africa — a soccer tournament for Nigerian youths that will result in the winning teams being flown to the U.S. later this year to visit.
Adam Miles started the organization more than 10 years ago, with a focus on reuniting African families that were "separated by war, political unrest, famine and other hardships," and to conduct service missions in Africa.
A key element of Save-A-Thon is that it brings together young American and African women. When Miles heads to Nigeria Monday for the final matches of the tournament, he’ll be bringing not only his family members but also six women who play for the professional soccer team Real Salt Lake Women.
"Save-A-Thon for Africa is a proactive effort that we engage in to take humanitarian aid, encouragement, motivation and opportunity to the kids there, through our secret weapon, these young women who I think relate best to the kids over there, and really send a message of hope, or equality, that women and girls in Africa and a lot of developing countries, sometimes even this country, are treated as equals," Miles said. "So that’s the point, is to bring over these young American women and give them the chance and opportunity and experience of a lifetime while we go and engage these kids in soccer."
Save-A-Thon’s under-18 tournament got underway in November in Osun, Nigeria, with more than 30 teams participating. Most players are between 14 and 17 years old, Miles said.
Next week will be the finals, for both boys and girls divisions.
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"Then we’ll start arranging [for the winning boys and girls teams] their passports and U.S. visas to be able to come over here, hopefully before the snow starts in October this year," Miles said.
Bridges to America is attempting to raise $25,000 for the upcoming trip via an online Indiegogo campaign.
"We’re actually bussing in these 80 participants and their coaches," Miles said. "They’re actually from an outside state, they’re four to six hours away. But we decided to do it in Lagos, so there’s that piece of that. We’re renting a stadium for them to be in, that’s a couple thousand bucks right there. Security for the players, our team as well — the Real Salt Lake women and my family, transportation around there."
The fundraising has been difficult, according to Miles.
"I’m really bad at fundraising, really bad at asking for money," he said. "The good news/bad news — I have probably just enough to stick my neck out and make this thing happen, but it gets really uncomfortable. Which is fine, I’m not complaining, no one’s asked me to do this, I’m not, you know, blaming anybody else. But we’re always looking for — I’m looking for a champion who says ‘you know what, what you’re doing in Nigeria is really hard.’"
"I think this is a fantastic opportunity. And it’s not just for the kids in Africa, but it’s also for the kids we engage when we take them over, the American kids, the American young women, especially, who engage in these voluntary activities," he said.
For more information about Bridges to America’s Save-A-Thon for Africa effort, or to donate to the cause, visit saveathonforafrica.org.
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