2010-06-18 Holland Sentinel "Soccer fever inspires migrant camp mentoring"

Soccer fever inspires migrant camp mentoring

Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —

Rodrigo De Grau remembers his elementary school teachers in Mexico carting TVs into the classrooms during school so the class could watch World Cup games.

He remembers waking up at 3 a.m. to see the games live when the World Cup was in South Korea.

Needless to say, De Grau knows how the boys in Holland area migrant camps feel this summer. He’s taking advantage of the soccer craze with the new Migrant Soccer Program run through the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

“Right now, with the World Cup going on, is a great time to start this program,” he said. “There’s such a soccer fever right now.”

The program aims to reach the preteen and teenage boys in the migrant camps who aren’t typically involved in other LEDA activities like the Migrant Mentoring program.

About 20 boys came to the first Wednesday night soccer program at a migrant camp just north of Holland. Ramiro Garza, 12, and Victor Lopez, 11, wore jerseys from the biggest rival soccer teams in Mexico — Chivas and America.

They stepped out of a heated game for a few minutes to answer questions, but were preoccupied with the game going on behind them.

After a few short answers — like “It’s fun” and “It’s cool” — they hurried back to their teams, relieved no goals were scored in their absence.

De Grau, a Spanish teacher at Holland Christian Schools, said the children’s parents often work late into the day.

“If the parents are out working, what are the kids doing?” he said.

LEDA Program Director Sarah Salguera said this is also another chance to build cross-cultural friendships between local Holland families and the families who live here as they work on area farms.

“We hope to continue to raise awareness in the community about what life is like for migrant children,” she said. “These programs help break down barriers between the migrant community and the larger community.”