Karina + UNICEF = No Child Too Far
I am sitting on the plane trying to figure out how to put into words what the last four days have meant to me.
I went back to where I started. Where I spent the first 8 years of my life. I went back to the communities that helped start me in this journey called life….
What I met there was far greater than what I thought I would see.
You see I went to Dominica with hope that I’ll not inspire just a few kids, but more. I wanted them to listen to me and realize that my story wasn’t just a cool one, but a story that could be theirs. I hoped they would understand that I saw me in them and that they could see themselves through me. I walked the streets they walk and swam in same waters they do, on weekends. I wanted them to feel something within, that could make them believe that something great was within them. I wanted them to understand that God put us all on this earth FOR A PURPOSE. We all are special. We all have something that is unique and we just need to find out what.
I was the shy kid that left this island with my family to move to Canada. It didn’t start easy for us. We were minorities. I was bullied, felt left out, and truly lost. Sport changed that for me. It gave me confidence and a belief in myself. It taught me such things as hard work, good work ethics, dedication, commitment, leadership, teamwork, yet even more importantly, it showed me that I could be good at something and be relevant in any group.
Standing in front of these kids and seeing how they look back at me….
It is hard to explain what it does to my heart to see, that as you are talking they are not only listening intently, but believing. The silence tells a lot. The way they smile and react is priceless.
I had a young girl whisper to me, “Thank you for coming and speaking with us. I believe I am special and today….I believe I am beautiful!”
I had a young boy say to me that no matter what others may tell him, he would not be average again.
I had every child who held my Olympic medal say something to the effect that “I believe I am special” or “I choose to not be average”.
As some of their voices shook as the words came out of their mouths, I know some of these kids had never said that to even themselves. There were some that were very confident in their words, but for those that struggled, that was a good reason why I was there.
Our kids are our futures and no matter what happens in life, we should never be the person to suppress them of their possibilities. Instead we should encourage and motivate them
I asked the children at one school to make me a promise. I asked them to promise me that on that day, before the sunset, they would make someone else feel “more than enough, rather than less than enough”.
There was a moment that a young quiet girl admitted that she didn’t feel special. It broke my heart. What happened next gave me hope as the girl beside her turned and said, “but you are special. How come you don’t know that?” In a few minutes, I was able to step back and let the youth see the power of their words, as they empowered each other.
They proved that it doesn’t take an Olympic medal to make someone feel amazing. A simple compliment is sometimes all someone needs. A child just needs to know that there is someone that believes in them.
What alarmed me was the difference age makes in a child’s belief that they are special and can do great things. In speaking with the young (ages 3-6) when I asked them what they wanted to be every hand went up and they yelled with enthusiasm what they wanted to be. The older the kids got, the less they wanted to talk about their dreams/goals. It’s as if every year they got older, it was less likely that their dreams could be a reality.
As adults we have to continue to let the future generations believe that they can be special; that they can be great; that they can make a difference. If they have the belief that nothing is impossible, then they have the tools to strive in the direction of their dreams which would make them happiest.
My UNICEF plans comprised visits to preschool, prep school, comprehensive school, high schools, soccer clinics and talks to the national teams as well as a (FOTA) group of youth with social struggles, plus accommodated interviews. During those four days I traveled along most of this beautiful island and loved the energy of beautiful, welcoming people, as we kept to our busy schedules. I got brief moments to see a few friends and relatives whom I had not seen in 10 years and my grandmother who is 91 years old. I felt at home in so many ways, even on official visits.
For these reason and so many more, I feel motivated to continue to make a difference. I ask for your help as I have started this fund for the enhancement of Dominican children and UNICEF will match up to $25,000. For each of these projects which I visited this week, every dollar will make a difference. Every donation counts. It will all add up.
These kids will feel secure in a continuing project which endorses them. These projects give purpose to kids that have been overlooked but can be included; kids that may not have had a chance – a greater chance. These projects give additional training and tools to those that are inspired to do more for kids. These programs allow the kids a confident start, to find a passion within themselves, and follow it.
No Child Too Far….
The trip ended with an interview for TSN, the Canadian Sports Network that had been following me for the entire time I was in Dominica. When asked on camera what this trip meant to me, I was overcome with emotion, because in that moment, I realized just how grateful I was to UNICEF. I was that child that felt too far and lost in visualizing a future. I never understood what a positive impact my parents encouragement and belief had on me in realizing my dreams. My parents were relentless in their support. I feel fortunate that I was afforded the opportunity to come back to Dominica, while my parents were there … it completed this journey for all of us.
UNICEF to this day is propelling me. It is allowing me to focus on my greater purpose in life and ensure that no child that is too far…
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