I went to Honduras for the 2nd time to take photos of FEIH’s first soccer tournament but first, let me give you some background. Back in December 2015, I went to Utila, a tiny bay island off the shore of Honduras, on a diving trip. The plan all along was to catch a flight from San Pedro Sula to Guatemala. My friend Brooke, who I was traveling with suggested we reach out to her friend Ramiro, who happened to be in El Progreso for Christmas. Brooke told me about Ramiro’s unbelievable story about how he was the New York City subway hero who pulled a man off the tracks. For his courageous and good deed, he received money from generous donors and instead of spending it on himself, decided to rebuild schools back in Honduras. We met and he showed me the first school, Santiago Morales and I’ve been working with FEIH ever since.
Back to the current story…2 years later, FEIH is currently rebuilding its 6th school. Soccer or futbol, as it’s known to the rest of the world, is a very popular sport in Honduras. When I was initially asked to go on this trip, I thought this will be cool; watching cute kids kick around a ball. I didn’t realize just how big of a deal this was to a little kid from rural Honduras until I arrived. I had a very short stint in playing soccer when I was in middle school and I definitely didn’t take it seriously. I only played to hang out with my friends. These kids take soccer very seriously, they practice after school sometimes even without shoes. When I arrived Honduras, I found out that one of the schools, Lempira, where the kids didn’t have soccer cleats, athleisure or a soccer field to practice on, was FEIH’s Cinderella team.
Ramiro showed me a photo of one of the Lempira boys playing soccer in rain boots! The day of the tournament was long and the air was thick with humidity. I was sweating my face off but having the time of my life capturing these moments. I had never seen kids so excited to play anything besides iPads and video games. Some kids were so excited they were crying during the Honduran national anthem. I loved seeing the parents beaming with pride.
With the momentum of the female empowerment movement, it was also appropriate that the soccer tournament included the girls. It was such a powerful statement to the boys and girls that FEIH recognizes and provides equal opportunity for boys and girls in education and sports. As if written in a movie, the Cinderella team, the Lempira boys won and the Adrian Mejia girls won as well.
I was standing on that soccer field getting drenched in the pouring rain, when I realized that I had it wrong all along. It’s not the fancy gear, coaches, facilities, schools, colleges, or even money that helps you win, it’s the heart. These kids won each game over and over because their disadvantages were actually their strengths. Practicing in rain boots without a soccer field primed them to have an advantage when they finally had cleats and a field. They also had to travel the furtherest and their school hasn’t even been completed yet! These kids and their families had never left their town before. The whole story was truly inspiring to me. The moral of the story is, make the most of what you’ve got!
I realized another thing on this trip; I thought I was the one helping these communities in Honduras. Donating money and my time, photographing events, running FEIH’s social media but in reality, they have helped me in more ways than they will ever know. I saw grit play out on that soccer field and that it doesn’t matter what you have, it’s how you use it that matters. Seeing these families who have nothing to drop everything to watch their children play soccer was so heart warming. Also, seeing the principals and teachers cheering on the kids. It really showed me that FEIH is much more than just building schools, it’s building communities. That one soccer tournament for these kids was a big deal. It showed them that there are opportunities out there. They have other choices beyond gangs and violence. Through my passion and love of travel and photography, I was brought to Honduras to learn life’s important lesson from the kids of Honduras.