From dream to reality – the third half is here!
Photo (from left to right): Billy Hartman, Katie Mahon, and Mike Geddes
Written By: Mike Geddes
Our first trip with the third half – to Lesotho in Southern Africa with a group of high school kids from PACE Academy in Atlanta – represented the product of years of dreaming, months of careful planning and 14 days of non-stop work, but for me personally the journey goes back almost a decade.
I first visited Lesotho – and our the third half host organization Kick4Life – in 2007. At the time, the organization had been operating for only a couple of months, and was trying to come to terms with how to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic that was devastating the country. Almost 25% of the population was HIV positive, and hundreds of thousands of children were growing up orphaned by the disease.
In the middle of this challenging environment, I had an experience that altered the course of my life. It began with a young girl called Lerato. She was sixteen years old, and HIV positive. She was also a coach educator with Kick4Life, who helped organize soccer tournaments for boys and girls where she would talk about her journey to discover her status, living with HIV and how others should overcome the stigma that surrounding testing and treatment.
I was blown away by her poise, confidence and grit – and fascinated by the organization she worked for. Over the course of my visit, I found out about how Kick4Life was using the power of soccer to help some of the most vulnerable children in the country. It was a profoundly moving and inspiring experience for me, and was one of the reasons why I made the decision to quit my job and throw myself full time into the world of ‘Soccer for Good’. I remember thinking at the time how great it would be if everyone who loved the game as much as I did could have the chance to share in this experience.
Ten years later, and thanks to the unique partnership between streetfootballworld and eSoccer that thought became a reality as our first the third half trip landed at Lesotho’s tiny airport. Pretty much every seat on the small plane arriving from neighbouring South Africa was filled with high school students from PACE Academy, an independent college-preparatory school in Atlanta. Not all of them were soccer players – some had never kicked a soccer ball before – but all had signed up to the third half’s challenge to ‘travel, play soccer and change the world’, intrigued by the power of soccer to give them insight into global cultures and challenges.
Over the next 12 days, the mixed group experienced everything that I had seen all those years before – and much more. We learned about Lesotho’s ancient and proud culture, visiting the country’s most sacred monuments and trying out local cuisine, dress and customs. We learned about the enormous social challenges facing countries like Lesotho, hearing powerful and moving stories from young people who had been through unimaginable trials but survived thanks to the support of soccer and Kick4Life. We dived into the work of Kick4Life, helping to deliver HIV/AIDS education to children from local neighbourhoods and encouraging them to get tested (as many of the students did themselves). We experienced the natural beauty of Lesotho, relaxing at a scenic mountain lodge, pony trekking and bathing in a mountain waterfall. And of course, we played a LOT of soccer – from moonlight five-a-side lit by thunderstorms to pick-up soccer with local street kids – and two students were even invited to train with Kick4Life’s professional side.
To cap an incredible week, we even had a private audience with King Letsie III himself, where the students answered his questions about their experience in his country. I’m not sure how I would have reacted in high school when put on the spot by royalty, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been half as well as the kids from PACE.
The last night was the highlight of the trip, as we got to hand over a check for over $15,000 to Kick4Life – along with an incredible range of cleats, shirts and equipment donated by the kids from PACE Academy. This was the reason we created the third half – to provide the revenue that will help organizations like Kick4Life help more and more of the world’s most vulnerable young people. This week Kick4Life shared a video talking about how the donation will be used and you can see it here.
Our first trip was an incredible experience, thanks to the professionalism and dedication of Kick4Life and the wonderful kids and teachers from PACE Academy. But this is just the beginning – we know now that the third half works, and that we can give more young soccer travelers the experience of a lifetime while helping some of the world’s most vulnerable young people.
If you want to be part of the journey, check out our website and find out how you can be part of the team. It might change your life, like it did mine. Travel. Play soccer. Change the world.
COO, Midfield Dynamo