At Thirsty Cup, the F4L children were no longer identified as kids from a Typhoon ravaged city or children from disadvantaged backgrounds. They were equals to their opponents: footballers, competitors, new friends.
The U11 Mixed, U15 Boys, and U15 Girls teams played every game with passion and more importantly, good sportsmanship. This tournament was not about winning, as we told the kids early on, but about experiencing life from a different perspective - their own, without any familiar influences.
This was the first time most of the children travelled outside their city. Each child started the trip glued to the other children from their practice sites. By the end of the trip, everyone gelled together like old friends.
I watched one nine year old boy go from shy and non-communicative in any language, to excitingly speaking broken English. When I asked him how a piece of cake tasted he replied with a big smile, “It’s the good!” That same child came out of the bathroom raving about the magical air that made his hands dry.
The children gained invaluable life lessons during their journey. They met children from other areas of the Philippines who gave them new ideas to explore. They asked a million questions, including how ferry boats, automatic hand dryers, and taxi's operate. They finally understood why drinking plentiful water and eating balanced meals is important.
Through my own eyes, I've witnessed change since our return to Tacloban. The children are teaching their site teammates what they learned in Cebu. They realise there is more in this country than their own neighbourhood. More importantly, they've understood the value of learning through new adventures, which they are now imparting in their own communities.
Sarah Van Vooren
Program Operations Manager