Empowered to Empower
"The sport gave me much more than just the ability to play"
I was six when the fire for football began to burn within me but, back then, I never thought it would be the key to my freedom—let alone the freedom of others.
I vividly remember the first time my father took me to watch him play at the stadium. I was mesmerised by the immense green of the field. I remember the sweet smell in the air from the budding flowers and bushes on the walk to the stadium and the feeling of the morning dew.
Those are perfect memories of my village, my home, my community.
In my heart, although I can’t explain why, I knew I had to be a part of it.
Football quickly became my passion and a force that drove me, but it wasn´t very long until distance became the first of many obstacles I would face. Living far from the city forced me to have to put football on hold.
Nonetheless, I kept the passion for the sport in my heart. I refused to let this be the end of the story. For I am a living testimony, and my story proves that no obstacle or barrier could stop what was written in the book of my fate.
So, years later, there I was playing for my high school team. Little did I know this was just another step, preparing me for the next open door. While studying physical education, I started to play for Universidad de los Andes and the State of Merida.
It was then that I learned that football was much more than just a sport. It was an instrument to learn about the world; a world I could have never seen from the grounds of my humble Venezuelan village.
It was through football, that my values became clear and I began to understand who I was and what I stand for. I was motivated more than ever to share what I had learned and to empower others.
But this desire to teach others simultaneously came at a very critical time in my country. Venezuela was in the middle of a socioeconomic and political crisis. My people were suffering and hope was dwindling.
Nonetheless, it was through that loss of motivation and sadness where I felt like the beautiful and powerful game that is football could bring us together.
I decided to use the game as a pathway to give children and their families new insight and hope. I wanted to empower all members of my community to see this situation in a different context. In my heart, I knew that the only way to bring change and joy in such a critical time in my country was through building relationships.
Football has the power to not just influence those playing the game, but also the ones who watch. So, I opened a school for parents to teach them about social and emotional guidance. I figured, if I could start within the hearts and minds of a player´s foundation I could be on to something.
I travelled throughout Venezuela to various sports schools, giving free speeches and mentoring with the hope and intention to spread the message of resiliency and encouragement. However, as the political climate worsened, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life-- to leave Venezuela.
The decision to leave my country was a pain I felt deep within my core.
To this very day, I still get choked up talking about it. To leave my family, and all of the things I had just started to build was heart breaking. However, I did it for the sake of my son; to ensure that he would have a better life, one full of opportunity and with the access to better education.
I emigrated to Ecuador as a vulnerable single mother, not knowing what mine and my son’s life would look like.
However, there was a beauty within that sacrifice that was waiting for me on the other side. The door to my niece´s small home in Ecuador was not the only door I walked through that day. A new-found hope was lit within me when a little boy that was a part of FUDELA asked my son if he would like to play football—his favourite sport.
I knew the work I had started in Venezuela wasn´t over, so I took the moment of taking my son to play as opportunity to plant a seed—hoping its roots could grow into something powerful for the people.
Shortly after I left my resume at FUDELA, I was hired as a volunteer.
Now the ball was rolling again and I found myself getting back into the work that meant most to me. For six months I continued to give emotional and motivational coaching to parents while their kids played football.
However, as a single mother, I still needed to make ends meet. I sold Christmas trees and worked 6 am to 5 pm shifts at a restaurant far from to the city. I had no experience doing any of these things but I did what I had to do.
But my life changed when I received the call that would launch me into my calling. In February 2019, I accepted a job to run programmes and workshops at FUDELA.
I began to see the fruits of my labour and sacrifice pay off when I saw the women’s teams I coached excel through mental and emotional coaching and support. Leading teams into national championships was just a testament to what motivation can do.
I saw my own reflection when coaching others. I saw the struggle, the resiliency, the strength, and hope for a new tomorrow – a new future.
FUDELA motivated me to believe and always remember my story has the ability to empower others. I now know with confidence that one´s personal struggle is the key and foundation to another person´s breakthrough.
Although every story can impact another person´s life, to say I have achieved this from my own resilience and I can share that with you’ to someone who may not see the light at the end of the tunnel is what I believe this life is all about.
Every obstacle has a teaching and I am honoured to be able to share that with others. What a gift to be able to see what has grown from the seed that was planted within my soul-- the seed of love for football.