This past June, Kids In Cleats held their second annual soccer gear collection drive; gathering used and new cleats, shin guards, uniforms, used working laptops, iPads and phones to bring to the village of Mbouda in Cameroon, Africa.
This is just a small part of the big vision co-founders Erica Gerstman, Ph.D. and Julio Tsasse hold for the Kids In Cleats (KIC) organization.
Their overall mission is to use soccer as the vehicle for children to rise out of poverty through education, self-empowerment and sport in Cameroon, Africa.
Program director and Cameroon-native Julio Tsasse shares that "it's so important to instill empathy and compassion into today's youth so that they can be tomorrow's change. We are making it our priority to empower local kids to help out on a global scale." As a trainer and former professional soccer player, Tsasse's goal is to leverage his own experiences to connect the children of his community with opportunity they do not have otherwise.
The long-term goal of KIC is to have proper soccer fields, a multi-purpose community center, a working farm, and a solid coaching staff that will not only be great trainers but also mentors for the children. Erica and Julio hope to engage young people and their families and help with education, food security and relationships with job training programs. This will provide the individual and community with the ability to break the cycle of poverty and improve the standard of living.
So far, the charity has acquired and cleared the 5-acre parcel of land in Mbouda that will be dedicated to the KIC community complex and field, and workers have begun constructing the foundation wall to secure the entirety of the land. Fundraising efforts are currently being focused on an irrigation system, seeding, providing for each player’s yearly education ($150 per player), and covering food expenses for their families.
“We really need to start finding a way to teach these kids about the bigger universe and how lucky they are, and how to give back and the meaningfulness of that,” Executive Director and psychotherapist Gerstman says of her inspiration for starting Kids In Cleats. And this drive accomplished just that -- the children of the community were so eager to get involved and help kids across the world.
Thanks to Fire Chief John Herrmann the 2020 collection drive was held at the Montclair Fire Department, and at Spook Rock Industrial Park in Suffern, NY. The drive saw an enormous amount of support from members of the Clarkstown Soccer Club (NY); John Moran, Danny Samimi and Troy Sponge, Chief of the West Haverstraw Fire Department. Samimi, president of the soccer club, gifted two teams’ worth of jerseys, made especially for Kids In Cleats. The collection, which ran for just over two weeks, yielded over 200 pairs of cleats, full uniforms for 8 teams, soccer jerseys for hundreds of children, four computers and a few phones and iPads.
Kids In Cleats has shown that even during this time of uncertainty, different communities are willing come together with helping hands for the greater good.
Learn about Kids In Cleats and how you can get involved: https://kidsincleats.org