|Street soccer festival fundraiser|
|Showcase benefits low-income, immigrant communities|
|Published Thursday, June 20, 2019 3:56 pm|
|PHOTO | ALLESANDRO DEBELLIS|
|Street Soccer 658’s Street Soccer Fest takes place in Plaza Midwood at Project 658 (3436 Central Ave.) June 21-22. Proceeds from the 4v4 tournament goes to programs serving East Charlotte's low-income and refugee communities.|
Soccer extends beyond Bank of America Stadium this weekend.
In addition to Group A Gold Cup matches on June 23—Canada-Cuba kick off at 6 p.m., and Mexico plays Martinique at 8:30 p.m.—Street Soccer 658’s Street Soccer Fest takes place in Plaza Midwood at Project 658 (3436 Central Ave.). The annual 4v4 tournament runs June 21-22.
“We have an open cup division, which can be all men or coed,” Street Soccer 658 Director Peter Fink said. “We have a women’s division, and then we have a youth division for under-16, under-14 and under-12. It’s a 4v4 fast-paced style soccer. I can guarantee you will get tired.”
Street Soccer 658 serves refugee and low-income communities in East Charlotte.
“We work with kids, 16-24,” Fink said. “Our main focus is just to provide different opportunities for where they are in life. We really found that the path of a refugee, or someone coming through the school system with a low income background, they were getting passed from grade to grade to grade, and we were working with juniors and seniors who were reading at a seventh grade reading level, especially if English was their second language.”
Fink witnessed frustration in the classroom translation to leaving high school without hope for the future, even if they graduated.
Soccer became the tool to connect the community.
“One of the first things we wanted to do was set up a street court in a community that is populated by mostly refugees,” Fink said. “One, it’s a safe place for them to play. It’s their own court that they can use. They don’t have to worry about getting kicked off a field or anything like that. Two, it’s a great spot to build relationships. That was our number one goal, to go in, build relationships with all these guys, and we did this through open play. We did this through practices. We did this through free leagues. Then we found out we were working with about 80-plus through that age range.”
Relationships established through the game allowed Street Soccer 658 to address bigger needs.
“We found out that 36 of the guys we were working with were eligible for citizenship, but they hadn’t done anything about it because they were scared of the political culture,” Fink said. “Twenty-four of them needed help tutoring with high school. About 38 of them needed help with their resume, trying to find a job, or figuring out what was next with their lives. We were able to go in and use soccer as a tool to build relationships with these guys and plug them into different opportunities.”
It also led to the leadership academy.
“That’s more hands-on and it’s more mentorship, and sitting down with them on a weekly basis and figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and setting three-, six- and 12-month goals,” Fink said. “Working with them, but also empowering them to give back to the community that they were living in. They can go to the street court and teach the little kids. We do growth mindset, social and emotional learning curriculum, as well as a life skills curriculum. We’re kind of doing it all through soccer.”
Proceeds from the tournament benefit Street Soccer 658 as their signature fundraiser. It also extends to similar organizations such as Creative Player Foundation, Charlotte Eagles and Running Works and across the country as well as sport for social change programs across Charlotte.
“We invited the majority that we could think of,” Fink said. “We told them, ‘we want you to utilize this weekend as a way to get your message out into the community,” because we feel like there’s much good happening in Charlotte, and there are so many great organizations using sport for social change, but people who are doing all this work, are busy doing the work. They don’t have time to promote what they’re doing.”
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