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Washington Spirit midfielder Joanna Lohman took a trip to Botswana, Africa last fall, working with a program called Girl Power! to help empower and provide resources for young soccer players in the developing nation.
In a recent blog post, Lohman provided an exciting update on her friends at the Old Naledi soccer club, who received a much-needed gift from the U.S. Ambassador on April 6, the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. See below for Jo’s latest update.
“Last November, I traveled to Africa as a representative of the Department of State to run empowerment programs for young women in Botswana. The program was called Girl Power! and allowed me to work with 16 young girls from the Old Naledi soccer club, a village just outside of Gaborone.
As I wrote in my blog immediately following the program, The support from the community was overwhelming. We were donated the top turf fields for the day and each player was given a ball and t-shirt to take home with them. We trained for hours upon hours in 100+ heat, blazing sun, and most players had NO shoes. They played barefoot with smiles on their faces and passion in their hearts. It was inspiring and heart breaking all at the same time.
We were joined by the U.S. Ambassador, the Botswana representative for UNICEF, and the Minister of Youth, Sport, and Culture. Instead of standing on the sidelines watching the girls train, all the dignitaries suited up and joined the scrimmage. I asked the U.S. Ambassador, in jeans and Lebron James basketball shoes, to be our outside back. With a large grin on his face, he defended that goal with courage. He also promised to supply the girls in Gaborone with proper soccer footwear as it was a shock to him, as much as it was to me, that these girls played barefoot.
On April 6, 2017, the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Ambassador Miller came true to his promise and presented the players with brand new soccer shoes.
It crushed me that I could not physically be there for this momentous occasion but I recorded a video that was played at the ceremony. I was told that the girls and their coach were so excited to see me and touched that I still remembered them. The Embassy also shared the photos of the event on their Facebook page and in my personal email box.
When I saw the pictures, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. The smiles on these girls faces, faces I will never forget because they are burned into my memory, made my heart want to explode with pride. I am so proud that Ambassador Miller and the Embassy Marines went to the effort to continue to change these girls lives. I am so proud that I was the Sports Envoy that led this program and helped to spark this event. I am so proud that we made an impact using the power of sport.
This is truly the meaning of life.”
– Joanna Lohman