PHILADELPHIA – Temple University is being well-represented internationally this week, as two members of the women's soccer team, junior Kate Yurkovic and sophomore Jenna Gosnay, have journeyed to Granada, Nicaragua to volunteer their time with Soccer Without Borders, a program that uses soccer as a vehicle to provide underprivileged children a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion and personal success.
Back when the season was still in full swing, head coach Matt Gwilliam forwarded his players an email regarding the opportunity Soccer Without Borders was offering. Over the past few years, SWB has been running a program, T.E.A.M. (Trabajando en Equipo Aprendemos Más), during the U.S. college winter break season, which is the summer vacation for the young girls in Granada. The week-long (Jan. 7-15) camp centers on the theme of teamwork, with a soccer session every morning and a teambuilding activity in the afternoon.
Gwilliam has made it a priority to instill various goals and life values within his program, such as giving back to the less fortunate. During his soccer playing days at Elizabethtown, he participated in the camp, so he recommended it as a rewarding opportunity to his team.
"I think that, Matt [Gwilliam] wants to bring this team heart, dedication and respect. I think that going on this with Jenna [Gosnay], is nice because he really likes teamwork, so going with her is going to bring us a lot closer together," said Yurkovic. "I think that aspect is going to help, because when we're closer together when we come back, it will be good for the team."
In the past, Temple Women's Soccer has gone out of their way to make their presence known in the local community.
“As a team we used to do Back on My Feet, which is running with homeless people in the morning,” Yurkovic said. “We did that a lot. We do other things, like going down before the Broad Street Run to help out with little things before that, but other than that, nothing to this extent that Jenna and I are about to take on.”
Yurkovic and Gosnay were inspired when hearing about the opportunity and persisted to make the accommodations in order to meet the requirements to participate.
“So many people do things for you here and we're so privileged to be wearing Temple Soccer and we shouldn't take it as a rite—it's a privilege we have and doing something like this is giving back and like saying 'thanks for giving me this opportunity,'” Yurkovic said.
The camp not only requires the participants to make their travel plans, but to also contribute 400 dollars toward the cost of their stay and the week's events, in addition to bringing 50 pounds of new or gently used soccer equipment.
Gosnay and Yurkovic will be spending their time with a host family, which was determined at their arrival.
A typical day at the camp will be waking up to have breakfast before having group meetings. Morning camp sessions follow before breaking for lunch and an afternoon camp session.
Gosnay, a major in social work, has taken time out to tend to the youth in the past. While attending Haddonfield High School, she and members of her team held soccer clinics for children in Camden, N.J. Ever since her sister went on a trip to Africa for a charitable mission, Gosnay has been wanting to something this powerful.
“This opportunity will go to a way further extent than any of the other things I've done in the past,” Gosnay said. “I'm hoping this will give me more experience with being around different groups of people and being able to relate to them. I'm mostly looking forward to helping the kids for an entire week and also being able to learn more of the Spanish language.”
Majoring in early childhood education and special education is what drove Yurkovic to this opportunity the most.
“This past summer and last semester I was in inner-city schools actually teaching, so it was the first time I got true experience doing what I eventually want to do,” Yurkovic said. “Then I got this opportunity, so it kind of meshed. I can learn a lot from going there [Nicaragua] to work with under privileged kids. I'm going to have to deal with that every single day of my life if I stay in Philly and I really enjoy it and that is what really drove me to do it.”
Yurkovic served on this year's team as a captain. Her leadership role has allowed her to realize her actions could motivate others to do something similar.
“When people see you go on something like this and then you come back and tell them about it, sometimes it interests them to do it or a different opportunity,” Yurkovic said.
Not knowing what to expect in a third-world country, both Gosnay and Yurkovic feel that they will only gain from the experience and feel they'll be able to smile knowing they did something to benefit those who are less fortunate, while also learning from the children as well.
“We don't speak the same language, but we all know how to play soccer, so that's something we can all do together,” Yurkovic said. “We can communicate through the way we play. They may show me things that I never knew and I'll probably teach them things, so it will be a lot of give and take.”
The game of soccer in terms of its familiarity on an international level is a very suitable approach in getting the children to learn import lessons.
“Soccer provides a good focus and it gives a good outlook on teamwork and the differences of other people,” Gosnay said.
Yurkovic and Gosnay will return home on Jan 15. During the time in Granada, both will be providing blog posts periodically here on Owlsports.com pending their internet availability. Be on the lookout for updates on their experience. A follow-up on their trip will appear at a later date when they return.