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Diaries Tori Haiti 2011
“At first I was hesitant to play at full strength but running alongside a man on crutches, let that one sink in for a second, it hit me that he was about to run past me and get the ball. Game on!”

~ Tori Jensen, director of Health Administration, of The GIVE N GO Project.

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We woke up the next day and spent several hours with the amputee soccer team in Port Au Prince. Their heart for the game of soccer and determination to overcome disability was impressive! They pulled one legged step overs and passed the ball to their teammates with precision. At first I was hesitant to play at full strength but running alongside a man on crutches, let that one sink in for a second, it hit me that he was about to run past me and get the ball. Game on! Making eye contact with him we shared a little laugh because he could see the surprise on my face. Even though we couldn't speak the same language, soccer brought us together at that moment and I hope he felt proud for all that he has accomplished.
Diaries Pabla Nicaragua 2010
“Crisitian has a beautiful smile, but you can see the pain in his eyes… You could just tell how much that day meant to him, and although we didn’t want to leave we knew there were more kids just like him waiting for our arrival.”

~ Pabla Ayala, Director of Public Relations, of The GIVE N GO Project.

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The children were all so grateful for everything they were given. Even something as small as a rubber silly band was a big deal for them. They were eager to get their uniforms and cleats on immediately to start a game right there and then. They were all very welcoming and loving. It wasn’t uncommon for them to wrap their arms around your waist or give you a big kiss on the cheek. When we were at Casa Lago we met a very special boy named Cristian. Crisitian has a beautiful smile, but you can see the pain in his eyes. We asked if we could ask him some questions on camera and he was very open and honest about his life. He had been living on the streets for years and was a huelepagas. He had runaway from home because he says he was mistreated and no one in his family loved him. He said that he was treated worse than the family dog, and no one wanted him. He found a group of huelepegas who introduced him to sniffing glue. He was constantly being arrested and hit and spit on by people on the streets, until the house mother of the Casa Lago found him, and took a special interest in him. He said that she cares for him more than his own mother ever had, and he feels she loves him like her own son. As we left Casa Lago, he was the last boy left in the road waving us off. You could just tell how much that day meant to him, and although we didn’t want to leave we knew there were more kids just like him waiting for our arrival. After leaving Casa Lago we went to downtown Granada. We knew the circumstances of some of the children like Crisitian we had just met, but we didn’t understand who these kids were before they found Los Quinchos until we met some huelepegas on the streets. That day we were able to sit down and ask these kids about their lives and why they use the glue. It was just shocking how addicted these kids were. They tell us they sleep in public parks, and stay in groups to beg for money and food to survive. We ask them if they play soccer and right there in the middle of the paved park we start a pick-up game with the kids. We use shoes and socks for goals, and most of the kids hold their flip-flops in one hand to prevent them from being stolen and in the other hand they hold their bottle filled with glue that they continually inhale through their noses or mouths while they run and kick the ball trying to score goals. It was heartbreaking to see a young boy just 11 years old screaming, “Glue is good!” when asked why he uses it. These kids were so high that you could see the emptiness on their eyes . That day in the park we met a boy named Julio with scars all over his face from barbed wire during a fight with another huelepega. We asked him if there was someone who could help him to give up the glue, give him a bed in a safe place, food, and get him off the streets would he consider speaking to that person? Julio said yes, and we made the introduction right there and then, and they made plans to meet in the park the very next day to start the process. That day was the most difficult for us. It is one thing to hear the stories from the kids or the program directors, but when you see it first hand and meet these kids as addicts living on the streets it is absolutely amazing to see what a difference organizations like Los Quinchos that we are able to support with our donations and clinics, are making on a daily basis with kids just like Julio.
Diaries Katie Nicaragua 2010
"The children cling to you. They ask your name. We kick a few balls around and that's it…love. Love for a game that has connected us immediately through a language and cultural barrier…I believe GIVE N GO really influences your senses to realize what is important in life."

~ Katie Talley-Thomas, Director of Operations, of The GIVE N GO Project.

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August 19th, 2010…..Managua, Nicaragua Explaining the images, smells and love from the children and the people which I am traveling on this trip will be challenging. Leaving the comforts of home and visualizing what we were about to see made me somewhat anxious, but the minute I saw the first child the anxiety vanished. He took my hand, squeezed it hard, and excitingly pulled me to the area where they play soccer. It didn't matter that it was 6:30 in the morning, and he was still brushing his teeth. We played, we laughed and hugged until it was time to go to school. All the boys asked…"why weren't you here yesterday???" It's difficult leaving these "homes" after only a few short hours. The spirited people who run the orphanages shows you how much love can be given in the these difficult places. The children cling to you. They ask your name. We kick a few balls around and that's it…love. Love for a game that has connected us immediately through a language and cultural barrier. Watching Amber on her 2nd trip to this amazing country is extremely inspiring. The love she shows for these kids is endless, and I can not help but fall in love with this place and their people. I believe "Give N Go" really influences your senses to realize what is important in life. Later that same day, our team met the most powerful 12-13 year old who lives in a trash dump community, La Chureca. Entering the the land fill community would have been unthinkable to most people with whom I come in contact. Americans rarely visit this area, and we received numerous wanted and unwanted attention. Covered head to toe in clothing to protect ourselves from the elements, we were quickly welcomed by the children. I have to be honest and say it was very uncomfortable at first to see these children and be so close to them seeing and smelling the filth. However, as we approached the small clearing we found 3 beautiful girls playing soccer. They let me join in the game as I was the lucky one with shoes. The dirt field on which we played was adjacent to the landfill and the girls' homes. You could tell these girls were tough. Marta especially!! I played with the girls while Amber, Pabla and Omar gathered information from the community and locked away the soccer gear we brought for the kids. When the remaining children got off work (searching through 3 stories of the trash dump) we continued to play more soccer. It got very difficult for me the more I played. The stench in the air was unbearable, and I had to find away to pretend it didn't bother me. How could I show that this bothered me when these kids look up at you for inspiration? This is there home. Marta gave us a tour of her home, which consisted of tin walls, a dirt floor,no clean water, and her double size bed she shares with 3 other people. They even consume the milk from the cows which feed off of the trash. As we prepared to tour the actual trash dump, we were told we could not bring our cameras with us. Our guides said it was not safe. Omar took his chances and we proceeded to climb the mountain of trash. It was a few stories high and as far as the eye could bare. We were not allowed to cover our faces because they said it would bring too much attention to our group. As we stood there completely dazed in a nightmare, there was a new arrival from a dump truck. The children (either barefoot or in flip flops) were excited to see bags of Oreo Cookies and Ritz Cracker wrappers. They told us this is a game they play, like a treasure hunt, to find unopened food. We were told 3 children died earlier in the month due to poisoning from this same game. The images are horrific! As the children want to share the food they find with us and look to us for reassurance, all we could do was stand and try not to break down emotionally and physically. I will NEVER forget the people, especially the children that live in this part of the country and their will to survive. We can all learn something from them. This is just a snapshot of our experience in Nicaragua. I am extremely proud to know that a simple visit of love and care could make such an impact on both these kids and myself.
Diaries Amber Nicaragua 2010
"The girls had a tremendous skill level for their age and were definitely holding their own as the boys watched from the sidelines. Watching these tomboys play immediately brought a sense of pride to me. They were smiling and laughing and did not have a care in the world, a vision I will never forget. It was truly inspiring watching these girls play and smile just yards away from the trash dump. It introduced a new meaning of optimism to me."

~Amber Tollefson, Founder of The GIVE N GO Project

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Arriving in Managua, Nicaragua and riding in the back of a pick up truck on all our bags of gear, reminded me of my first trip to Nicaragua two years ago. The familiarity came from the distinct smell of fire burning, the same imagery of kids playing outside and families gathering. We drove by miles and miles of inadequate housing, people farming, kids transporting water on horses and children playing soccer in the streets. We made a quick stop at a gas station and it couldn't help but remind me of the experience I had last time I stopped at the same gas station on the last trip. It was late at night and I remember walking up to two young boys covered in filth playing with nothing…literally rubbing their dirty hands on the dirty concrete. They were absolutely filthy from head to toe. Their faces had dirt smudged all around their mouths and cheeks. I was appalled. I remember Sister Phyllis from NPH (Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos orphanage) who picked us up wrapping up the remainder of my sub that I didn't finish eating and giving it to the child. An older guy grabbed it from the kid and Sister Phyllis jumped out of the van and took it from the man and gave it back to the child along with giving some change to another child. It seems as if she has the heart to want to save everyone and the pain comes when she realizes she can't. She delicately told us story after story about finding babies and small children half alive in boxes, some who don't make it and some who grow up through their orphanage singing, dancing and living life. I remember when she described these stories that she had a tear streaming down her cheek, a gentle reminder of all the children that needs to be saved and a gentle reminder of the pain that seemed so deeply stored away in her soul. With my last experience so vividly trapped in my mind, I knew that this mission trip was going to impact some lives…I just didn't realize how much it would overwhelmingly impact mine, as well. Spending time with the kids and being in their element, playing the game that we both dearly love was amazing. I saw kids that were at the age of 8 that had a skill level and touch of a 16 year old. Seeing how they anxiously lined up to receive donated soccer gear and then graciously smile and get ready to play was so fulfilling. We took photos and video so we can relay the message back to the generous people in the states who so kindly donated to help this cause. Each of these kids has a story and documenting this footage is so important in revealing untold stories of their heart. These kids have to deal with adult issues at such an extremely young age. Finding out their stories and then seeing their smiles after what we bring them is so powerful. Along with the orphanages, we traveled off the beaten path to remote places. We visited a community of people that live on the trash dump in La Chureca, Managua. Blocks away we could sense the putrid smell of the trash site. It was a smell so unbearable. We show up to see some tough girls playing pick up soccer barefoot in the dirt just yards away from the trash area. The girls had a tremendous skill level for their age and were definitely holding their own as the boys watched them. Watching these tomboys play immediately brought a sense of pride to me. They were smiling and laughing and did not have a care in the world, a vision I will never forget. It was truly inspiring watching these girls play and smile just yards away from the trash dump. It introduced a new meaning of optimism to me. After they showed us their harsh living quarters, they led us up to the trash dump. It was an unsafe place for anyone, especially for these kids walking bare foot and eating out of soiled trash. It was a smell, a site and an experience that I will never forget. After sharing cleats, balls, shoes and clothes with the kids of La Chureca, it was time to depart. Marta, the girl who was playing soccer as we showed up, wanted to relish in every moment we were there. She held on to the back of the truck as we drove off and I'll never forget as she said "Muchas Gracias, adios" as she jumped off the moving truck and waved goodbye. I watched Katie cry as she had to turn to look away from Marta waving. The experience weighed heavy on our hearts as we realized that we were able to leave that place but, for many, La Chureca is home. We continued on to an older boys orphanage in Grenada where we played on their green, mossy court. The boys explained to us that we could score two ways…by hitting the ball off the basketball pole or hitting it off the basketball backboard. I figured they must lose all their balls that way because the court is on a very high slope. We brought out mini goals with nets instead and the kids loved that. For Katie and I, the game on this mossy court revolved around not slipping, which we miserably failed. The kids, on the other hand, were used to their terrain and used the walls for “give n go’s” and were sliding on the soles of their shoes. The court emulated an indoor facility and it was a nostalgic setting. I was enamored by the kids and their personality. Again there was another emotional farewell as all the boys gave us hugs and kisses and Christian, who we bonded with most, was the last to watch us leave until we were were out of sight. These first few orphanages we visited had kids that were former glue-sniffers off the streets. I never really realized the magnitude of their past until we met several current glue-sniffers in the street. Usually orphanages try to befriend these particular kids to recruit them to detox and attend their orphanages. We tried to do the same to recruit them out of that environment and used the game of soccer to do the talking. I gave encouragement to one of the kids named Julio after he made a good play. At the same time, I tried to coerce him to play without the glue but he wouldn't let it go. It's a fix that diminishes their hunger pains, a fix that makes them feel nothing, a fix that I was hoping the game could alter. We visited NPH (Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos ranch) and conducted some very organized soccer clinics. We gave out official World Cup jerseys to the winners of the drills, which the kids loved. It was the most successful day of trainings. After, we took a ferry to Island Ometepe where we re-visited the NPH that resides at the base of an active volcano. Upon arriving, I saw Stephanie, a girl I bonded with last trip. We ran to each other and embraced. I told her in Spanish that I missed her so much and she replied in perfect English, “I missed you, too.” I knew she knew a little English but now she spoke fluently and flawlessly. She said she learned so she can communicate with me when I returned. It was, for me, the most touching experience of the whole trip to see that I had that much of an effect on her. We caught up, laughing and chatting and acting as if 2 years never went by. When it was time to leave the next morning, once again it was a tough, emotional departure to leave what was to me, the closest thing to a daughter. But, Stephanie who is now 16, is the glue that holds all of those kids at the house together. She told me not to cry and to stay strong. She has more strength than I could ever have. Most of the orphanages we visited had children that had to deal with a very troubled upbringing and have been abandoned. I couldn't even fathom not having family or parents to guide me growing up. So to be able to give back a little of what we had growing up with soccer gear, clinics, mentoring and opportunity was very fulfilling. Upon leaving Nicaragua for the second time, I do recall Sister Phyllis' pain…a reminder that there is more work and just like the mantra at one of the orphanages said, "there will be no child left on the streets." I have seen the game of soccer help bridge the gap.
© 2011 The GIVE N GO Project. All rights reserved.