Children of migrant workers, area residents play soccer at Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance summer program
By LISA ERMAK
The Holland Sentinel
Everyone smiles in the same language, and playing soccer is no different.
“The good thing about soccer is you don’t really have to speak the language in order to play and have fun,” Rodrigo DeGrau said.
That’s the idea behind the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s summer soccer program, an initiative that DeGrau oversees throughout the summer.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, children of migrant workers and community members meet twice a week to kick the ball around at Quincy Park and stay active.
The summer soccer program was developed when LEDA identified a gap in its services.
“We have a migrant mentoring program that has been around for 16 years,” LEDA Program Director Sarah Salguera said. “We identified that one of the gaps was to adolescent boys. (Soccer), culturally speaking, is something that the young people of the Hispanic culture like to do. It’s an activity that’s culturally relevant to them.”
According to information from LEDA, each year from February to late November, about 6,000 children accompany their parents to Ottawa County for seasonal work.
For many of them, Spanish is the first language in the home and, because of long work hours in the fields, parents are not able to provide or pay for after school or summer activities.
DeGrau said the program is a great way to get the kids outside and having fun as well as provide opportunities for the Holland community to interact with these kids.
“It’s a way to have kids involved and to build relationships so they don’t feel like they’re isolated from the rest of Holland,” DeGrau said. “That’s one way to interact with someone who’s not from the same culture, and that’s the beauty of the sport.”
LEDA also organizes a migrant mentoring program that matches community volunteers with a migrant child, as well as a migrant summer reading program that brings groups of volunteers to local migrant camps to read, play games and socialize with children to promote cross-cultural understanding.