Welcome back to my L.A.C.E.S. journey! If you missed my blog introducing myself make sure to go read it here, and my second blog focusing on James Moore, the Program Director in Liberia, can be found here, and my last blog introduces Leah, the Operations Coordinator, can be found by clicking here.
Virtual Soccer Clinic:
I recently got to help plan and participate in implementing L.A.C.E.S. first ever Virtual Soccer Clinic! This amazing experience allowed me to see behind the scenes planning, troubleshooting, and organizing a virtual event as well as be introduced to the coaches and youth of L.A.C.E.S. This was the first time I was able to see and meet the youth, so I was ecstatic! They were all so excited to see their L.A.C.E.S. family, and the coaches surged with energy and made sure the entire team felt appreciated and welcomed. The day of camp, when the players started joining I could see the huge smiles come across their faces. Even after the clinic was finished, a few youth stayed on the Zoom call to keep talking to friends they hadn’t been able to see due to COVID-19. This moment made me realize the connections and friendships that L.A.C.E.S. has brought to these youths and families, and I’m so thankful to be a part of this team.
Through the Virtual Soccer Clinic, I was able to see the different roles that Seren, the Executive Director and Founder, took on. She troubleshooted, spoke to the youth, kept the coaches on track, and everything in between! It was honestly amazing to see the different aspects of the program that she was able to take on to make it a success, and it made me realize how true it was of Leah, the Operations Coordinator, to mention that to work in a nonprofit you had to put on different hats at a moment’s notice. I am beyond thankful to work alongside her throughout my internship, and I’m even more thankful she has allowed me to sit down with her to ask my very extensive list of questions I had for her!
My Interview with Seren:
Seren has taught me so much about leadership and the nonprofit world – from being a woman in a leadership position to event planning and anything you could imagine. Throughout the interview and my internship, Seren continues to give me advice for my future, which I cannot describe how appreciative I am. Something I have always admired about Seren is the fact that she has a vision for L.A.C.E.S., and she is continuously finding new ways to achieve her goal.
Her dream for L.A.C.E.S., within the next five years, is to partner with global organizations and give them the tools, training, and the curriculum that L.A.C.E.S. has adapted and created so they are able to positively impact their communities. Seren’s vision of working with communities to empower and ensure the success of the youth is what drew me into the organization. I can see this through her everyday actions – she addresses every child we speak about by their name and can tell you something about them. This may seem very small, but L.A.C.E.S. works with hundreds of children, and Seren has a connection with them all! I have worked with numerous nonprofits, and an issue I constantly see that is ingrained within the structure is going into communities and taking over, but L.A.C.E.S. constantly works to combat this harmful tactic.
When talking about how L.A.C.E.S. is special compared to other organizations it really boiled down to the fact that there is a connection and investment in the youth they are working with. For example, coaches come from the community of the youth, so they are able to connect with them outside of games and practices. In addition to this, mentors check-in weekly with their youth instead of meeting once a month like many organizations. Even during this COVID-19 pandemic, while sports programs have paused, mentors are inviting their youth to meet at their coach’s home for a check-in (while social distancing) and so that they can eat a meal together.
L.A.C.E.S. impacts its beneficiaries, but it’s also important to note the impact that it’s had on Seren as well. Seren mentioned that before she founded L.A.C.E.S. she just felt like she just did her job and came home, “like her life was spinning in a never ending circle.” But after founding this non-profit, she was able to realize her strengths and find out who she is as a person. She began to realize how she wanted to impact the world and how she could do that through L.A.C.E.S.
This organization has done amazing things for not only its direct beneficiaries, but also the people who work alongside and with L.A.C.E.S. I continue to hope and pray for an organization like L.A.C.E.S. to impact me in the same way it did Seren.
Learn More about Seren’s story in founding L.A.C.E.S.:
In 2006, Seren Fryatt had a desire to learn more about Christ and to express her faith through action. She left the lakefront of Chicago for the shores of Liberia, West Africa, to live in a 10×10 room with 3 other girls for 6 months aboard the floating hospital ship, Mercy Ships.
While serving with Mercy Ships she was given the opportunity to step off the ship and onto land where her life was changed forever. While playing a pickup soccer game, Seren was recruited by Pro Anchor to play in Liberia’s Professional Women’s Soccer Division. Seren’s knowledge of Liberia started with statistics and stories of faraway children growing up in the midst of civil war. Those nameless faces are now gone, replaced by the faces of friends and former teammates. Reflecting back on this experience, Seren has realized that through soccer God planted seeds in her heart that did not stop when she left Liberia. Seren founded L.A.C.E.S. in August of 2007 and what was an inspired idea became a reality. She returned back to Liberia with a plan to use sports as a tool for developing youth.
Seren was named one of the ” 50 Most Inspirational People in Sport” by Beyond Sport. She shares this honor with First Lady Michelle Obama, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and 46 others who are pushing the boundaries to change lives through sports. You will find Seren often saying “people talk about wanting to live out their passion and I am so blessed to be able to wake up every morning and do that by serving the people who have inspired my life.”