I am honored to be named as a “Global Advocate for Youth” for the United Nations Foundation with a mission to help engage young people in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and a world of opportunity for all. I am immensely proud of this distinction for many reasons, but today I want to focus on just one. In my life, I have had the opportunity to be many things: I am a professional soccer player, an entrepreneur, and a father, but some of the most amazing things that I have learned, I learned from being an educator. I want to share those things with you, because I think it’s helped me get here today.
No discussion about the future of this world would be complete without talking about two things: young people and their dreams.
When I look around the world today, I see efforts made to provide a helping hand to those struggling with poverty. I have always gravitated toward providing resources to under-served youth in developing countries. So, naturally, seeing these global efforts should be a great source of pride for someone who has made it his life mission to contribute toward the education of our youth. However, I cannot help but grow more concerned. Unfortunately, some relief missions are temporary, short-term at most, and do not solve the root of the problems of poverty.
I would like to change that.
I believe the true solution is not to give help, but to give hope. By creating a more sustainable ecosystem that focuses on developing local production for local consumption, we can help enable communities to move out of poverty.
This isn’t just a theory; it works. I know this to be true because I have seen it firsthand. I have provided youth soccer programs in more than 60 schools, for more than 3,500 students. I have conducted global soccer camps in multiple countries including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. I have witnessed children transform before my very eyes. I have watched them pick themselves up and rise above the pressures of their environment. This, I believe, is the miracle of progress.
In order to truly live, you must dream.
Our method is simple: We empower countries and communities by equipping the kids who will eventually lead them with dreams. Dreams help kids become stronger. Dreams make people bigger. Without a doubt, I believe that it is not parents who raise children; it is our dreams that shape who we become.
For the past seven years, my goal has been to provide hopes and dreams to children. We’ve made progress, but we need to make more. And we need your help. Together with the UN Foundation, we can support the UN and raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals to encourage young people to help make them a reality. Let’s help young people everywhere believe in their dreams and in our shared dream of a more peaceful, just world.
I strongly believe that there needs to be a long-term solution to expand opportunity and that we need to make impact investments to help the world. Through soccer camps and other outreach efforts, our children learn how to dream. When you have a dream, only you can make it become a reality. The ability to dream leads to independence.
It takes nothing to stay in poverty, but everything to break free from it. In order to truly make a difference, we must inspire our youth to dream.
Let’s make them dream of a better world for everyone.
[Photo: Zach Rosen/UN Foundation]