“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” The three-line poem by Lebanese- American writer Khalil Gibran adorns a card pinned above Ben Gucciardi’s desk. For the Founder of Soccer Without Borders, they are both inspiration to continue his work and a reminder of the many moments in the organisation’s his- tory when chance created opportu- nity. “We have been very fortunate to connect with the right people and right resources when we needed them most,” he says. A year after founding Soccer Without Borders, Ben was strug- gling to secure funds to continue. One day, an envelope arrived in the post. It contained a check for $5,000, Khalil Gibran’s poem ‘On Service’ and a note reading, “Keep going, your work inspires others”. It was signed: “From The Universe”. “At the time, $5,000 was almost our entire budget; it went an extremely long way to supporting the work,” Ben remembers, “But on a deeper level, it also inspired me to feel that this work was meant to happen. The words themselves continue to in- spire me to devote my life to service, to see this work as an act of service and to act from that place.” Long before Soccer Without Borders came into existence, Ben had known that he “wanted to work with youth and to do social justice work.” He attrib- utes this drive to the values bestowed Children participat- ing in the Refugee Community Camp at Soccer Without Borders Greeley, Colorado, 2018. High spirits at the 2013 Soccer Without Borders Refugee Community Camp in Oakland, California. upon him by his family and the educa- tion he received. “The schools I went to growing up in San Francisco were very progressive and always emphasised service and investigation of privilege.” Ben’s talent as a football player took him across the country to attend Lehigh University and compete in the highest University division in the United States. He excelled on the field and in the classroom, and earned a Presidential scholarship to expand his Bachelor’s degree into a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. As part of that coursework, Ben completed his student teaching in an English Language Learning Classroom at a public high school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “While I enjoyed it, it also made clear that I didn’t want to work in a classroom setting,” he remembers. “I wanted to work in a setting where participation wasn’t mandatory, where youth were choos- ing to come,” Ben explains. An idea began forming in his head about how to bridge the gap be- tween background and biography. He devoured the works of Brazilian thinkers Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal and a framework of education that questions hierarchy and exam- ines the teacher-student contradiction, proposing instead that all teachers are learners, and all learners are teachers. “I thought about applying their ideas in a soccer context,” Ben recalls. He wanted to create a programme based upon the premise that, “we are all here because we value each other and want to work together and lift each other up.” But how could he achieve this? Questions began whirring around in his mind. “How can I create that welcoming, inclusive space? How can I do something youth will authen- tically want to engage with?” Striding through the university corri- dors, he saw a notice for an entrepre- neurship contest. It was the perfect opportunity to not only shape his ideas, but to secure initial funding to turn these ideas into reality. The budding founder consolidated his thoughts and penned a programme proposal. He named it “Soccer Without Borders.” “The name is a tribute to the amazing work Doctors Without Borders has done over so many years,” Ben says earnestly. It also expressed the effect he was aiming for: “to create an ideal context for people from different backgrounds and countries to work together.” The name, he says, “deem- phasises the physical borders people cross to find safety or home in favour of lifting up our shared humanity.” On such a level playing field, he sought to give young people from marginalised communities a place to play – and thrive through learning. In late 2006 and early 2007, Ben travelled to Nicaragua and El Salvador where he joined existing programmes, 71 KICKSTARTERS