Soccer players join forces to stop human trafficking

By Sarah Schwittes | Sep 11, 2013
Courtesy of: Christine Thayer Elizabeth Thayer, a seventh grader at Harbour Pointe Middle School, plays in a girls soccer tournament in Cambodia during a recent trip. Elizabeth was one of 17 premier soccer players to teach advanced soccer skills to Cambodian girls and play in a tournament with them.

 

This summer, 17 female soccer players ages 12 to 14 traveled to Cambodia to share their soccer skills and compassion with girls who have been rescued from human-trafficking, as well as girls living in orphanages and on the streets in Cambodia.

The players came together from competing soccer clubs including Rush, Tynecastle FC, FC Alliance, Snohomish United, NW Nationals and Fuerza to form one team representing the United States.

Mukilteo’s own, Elizabeth Thayer, a seventh grader at Harbour Pointe Middle School, was one of the team members who went.

Cambodia is a third-world country that has suffered through severe poverty and the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. Just a few years ago, girls were not allowed to play soccer in Cambodia.

Today, through the work of SALT Academy (saltacademy.net), Cambodia now has an official soccer program for girls.

The Washington premier soccer players joined with SALT to teach advanced soccer skills to the Cambodian girls and play in a women’s soccer tournament.

“I was so happy to be able to take the skills I have learned and share them with the girls in Cambodia,” said Thayer, a U13 player from Rush. “This trip has been a life changing experience for me.”

If you ask any of these 17 players, you’ll hear that soccer is a huge part of their lives. Many have been playing since they were 4 or 5 years old and now play on one of the top premier teams in Washington state.

They train 4-6 days per week and usually play at least one game on the weekends.

Many have even had the privilege of being trained by players from the Women’s and Men’s Seattle Sounders, U.S. International Teams and more.

Their goal is to play soccer in college and – if they’re lucky – on the U.S. National Team at the Olympics someday.

In addition to the daily soccer clinics, the team also visited children in a local orphanage, spent time with girls in one of the human-trafficking safe houses and taught computer, English and other classes at a local school.

They also brought new and gently used soccer equipment to share with the children in Cambodia.

“We have been given so much – new cleats every season, multiple uniforms, shin guards and balls,” said Sydney Carter, U14 Snohomish United Player and daughter of trip founders Eddie and Kari Carter. “It was so nice to deliver these supplies so more girls can participate in the SALT soccer and education programs.”

The two-week trip to Cambodia included a 5-game soccer tournament where the U.S. team played teams from multiple provinces in Cambodia. The U.S. team went undefeated in the tournament and won the final game 1-0.

“It was an amazing feeling to go to Cambodia this summer and to participate in a women’s soccer tournament,” said Kari Carter. “When we first started going to Cambodia eight years ago, girls couldn’t even play soccer. The work we have done over the past eight years has really made an impact in the lives of so many girls.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of the local soccer clubs, players, families and local community.”

To learn more about this effort, visit www.cambodiasoccer.org.

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