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A Journey with ‘One Goal’

Near the entrance to Chris Campbell Memorial Field in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa, more than 100 children wait in anticipation. Some have walked more than a mile for a chance to play soccer on the turf field, which opened in 2009. Soccer is their passion, a pathway to new friendships. Thanks to a group of F&M students and alumni, it is also a vehicle for their education.

The children visited the field to take part in The ONE Goal initiative, the latest chapter in Franklin & Marshall’s evolving presence in Cape Town. The initiative, partially funded by a $10,000 award from Davis Projects for Peace and $3,000 from the Rouse Scholarship program, used sport-based education to introduce public-health issues to South African youth. The 12 students and alumni who took part in The ONE Goal were the third group from F&M to visit Khayelitsha over the summer; the men’s soccer team traveled to Cape Town in May, while the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement organized a community-based learning course in South Africa in association with Social Entrepreneur Corps.

Mona Lotfipour ’12 began planning The ONE Goal project after taking Global Public Health, an F&M travel course to South Africa, in 2010. “We worked with hundreds of people who had HIV, and I remember being upset,” says Lotfipour, who plans to become a physician with a focus on global public health. “Instead of focusing my efforts strictly on medicine, I want to educate people on public-health issues.”

After receiving the Davis Projects for Peace award earlier this year, Lotfipour began organizing a group of current students to travel to South Africa. Meanwhile, Meaghan Mancini ’10 was spearheading a similar trip by women’s soccer players. “Almost by coincidence, Mona was planning her trip as I was planning mine,” says Mancini, who played soccer for the Diplomats for four years. “It was so exciting to know that others were going. So we teamed up in May.”

Lotfipour and Mancini received a friendly F&M welcome from two Diplomats in South Africa: Ryan McGonigle ’08, who has overseen the Soccer Africa Project since 2008, and Amy Cawley ’09, who joined McGonigle in Khayelitsha in 2009. Various fundraising efforts at F&M and elsewhere provided an additional $35,000 to support The ONE Goal initiative.

At Chris Campbell Memorial Field, students and alumni partnered with 12 local “young leaders” between ages 16 and 18 and five South African facilitators to organize the three-week program. Each week, a new crop of 100 local children arrived to participate in the camp, playing soccer while learning about healthy foods, oral hygiene and other health issues. “I think the biggest impact was how the children view their own health, especially their own food,” Lotfipour says. “The older kids learned about HIV and dating, and the young leaders learned how to be great role models.”

Mancini will never forget one camper in particular. “I remember one girl who would not get on the field in the beginning of the week,” she says. “She might have been scared. By the end of the week, she was tearing it up against the boys on defense. She was out of her shell in seven days. If that can happen in a week, imagine what can happen in a summer.”

Becca Green ’14, who has a strong interest in human rights, continues to be inspired by an 11-year old child she met in Khayelitsha. “His English was amazing. He just wrote me a letter and says he’s bored now that we’ve left. He goes to a school outside of the township, and some kids at his school make fun of him for living in a township. He has his mind set that he’s going to college and doing great things. It’s amazing and inspiring to see that empowerment in him.”

The students who organized the trip credit numerous members of the Franklin & Marshall community for their support. Lotfipour says she applied for the Davis Projects for Peace Award after receiving encouragement from Susan Dicklitch, director of the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement and professor of government. She also credits Marion Coleman, associate dean for multicultural affairs; Dan Wagner, head men’s soccer coach; and Tony DeMarco ’84, former major gifts officer, for their support.

Members of the campus community can see images from The ONE Goal program this month, as a traveling exhibition of the students’ trip makes a stop in the New College House from Sept. 20-30. Members of The Human Rights Initiative are curators of the exhibit, which includes photos taken by F&M students in addition to pictures taken by the local children.