Global Expansion Q&A with Founder and Executive Director of L.A.C.E.S. Seren Fryatt

Your commitment to our life-changing work has astounded us and we want to share with you more details about what’s to come next in this Q&A with Seren Fryatt.

Let’s start at the beginning. How and Why did you start L.A.C.E.S.?
Quick answer, it started with a pick-up soccer game 14 years ago. I was volunteering with an organization called Mercy Ships and they were docked off the coast of Liberia, West Africa. Before arriving in Liberia, I did my homework and learned about their recent 14-year civil war, and about the 15,000 child soldiers who had been forced to fight in it. After being in Liberia for two weeks, these statistics turned into the names and faces of the women on my professional soccer team and of the traumatized children I met.

At this point in the story most people are like, “Back up — you played professional soccer in Liberia?!” Yes, I did. One day, at the pick-up soccer game I mentioned above, a Liberian coach saw me playing and recruited me to join Liberia’s Women’s Professional Soccer League. Playing soccer at the highest level in Liberia is when I saw that it was far more than a game: it could be hope, it could be joy, and it could heal hearts.

This life-changing experience launched a vision that God put in my heart on how to leverage the power of a game that I had played my entire life but didn’t know could be an avenue for restoration. I took my life experiences of playing soccer and used them to found L.A.C.E.S. — Life And Change Experienced thru Sports, with a mission to leverage the power of sport to mentor at-risk youth.

What has been the impact of L.A.C.E.S. for the last 13 years?
In summary, L.A.C.E.S. became a reality in 2007 and since then has served over 3,350 vulnerable children, trained over 275 coaches and provided over 485,000 meals to former child soldiers, Ebola orphans, refugees and street children.

What is the future of L.A.C.E.S.?
Over the last 13 years, L.A.C.E.S. has partnered with independent researchers to measure the effectiveness of our program. The results have not only affirmed our impact but are now guiding our future into a partnership model for global expansion.

Global Expansion: Is L.A.C.E.S. ready?
Yes, L.A.C.E.S. is ready!
With over a decade’s worth of experience and with program history to support our effectiveness in cultivating positive changes in a child’s life, we are prepared to expand our work and share L.A.C.E.S. framework, curriculum and expertise with the world. Our drive is to provide children across the globe the opportunity for their lives to be transformed in the same way we have done in Liberia. We started this next chapter in Sierra Leone.

How are we doing this with our first partner in Sierra Leone?

Our founding staff members in Liberia, consisting of James Moore and Pastor Roberts, travelled to Sierra Leone in 2019 several times over a period of 6 months to train our first partner organization, Love One Another. Following these initial trainings, L.A.C.E.S. used the monitoring and evaluation tools we have built over the years to track their progress. Based on monthly reports, we encouraged them in the areas we saw success and supported them through video training and chats when they had questions or we saw areas that needed improvement. Once it is safe to travel again, our team will go to Sierra Leone for an in-person program evaluation.

What does global expansion look like for L.A.C.E.S.?
We have seen time and time again, it is the hands and feet of the people who invest in these children that matters the most, and the tool they have used to succeed in bringing about change is the L.A.C.E.S. framework, curriculum and expertise. Which means as L.A.C.E.S. identifies new areas of need around the world, we will look to local organizations who are the hands and feet within their community, serving youth with the most need. We will teach our time-tested methods to our new partners and guide them as they learn to use the power of sports to affect change in the youth of their community.

What was it like to kick off the Sierra Leone expansion project?
Amazing. I was there with the founding members of our Liberian team and we could not have been more excited and energized to launch the next phase of L.A.C.E.S. There was an air of excitement amongst the youth being served and the sidelines were packed with community members and local media outlets for our inaugural game. Sports as more than a game is something Sierra Leoneans had never seen before and everybody wanted to see it first hand. What I saw that day was hope, joy and the beginnings of a healing of hearts for both the youth and the community.

None of our work would have been possible without the love and support of our greater L.A.C.E.S. family! It is such a blessing to serve these vulnerable youth alongside you. Would you consider how many days of the year you can give to these youth?

Every day counts, because every child matters!