Inspired by legendary athletes such as Athletes for Hope Founder, Mia Hamm, Taylor Ancell has made AFH her home for the past three years. In her role as Athlete Coordinator, Taylor works with professional and Olympic athletes and connects them with various social causes and platforms that they are passionate about. Additionally, she has led our gender equality initiative in both Kenya and Tanzania and looks forward to continuing this type of work as AFH broadens its global footprint! We sat down with Taylor to ask her what she loves most about working at AFH.
What brought you to AFH?
Sports has always played a meaningful and significant role in my life. I’m competitive by nature and attribute much of who I am to the lessons I learned through sports – teamwork, resilience and commitment just to name a few. It was with this passion that I started my career in the field of sports broadcasting at both the Washington D.C. ABC affiliate as well as NBC Sports Washington. In 2016, I decided to shift gears and landed at AFH as a result of my desire to capitalize on the tremendous power that sports has to impact society for the better. Three years later, and I’m reminded of that each and every day when I get to work with athletes eager to give back and make a difference in their community.
What is Your Favorite Part About Working at AFH
There are so many incredible elements about working at AFH, it’s hard to pick just one! We all wear many hats so no two days are the same which keeps things interesting and forces you to stay on your toes. I’m particularly passionate about gender equality so our work in that space is one that is personal and meaningful to me. Additionally, I love getting to work directly with athletes that have diverse interests but all share the common desire to better their communities. I recently got an email from a teacher following a professional athlete visit that read in part, “My kids are still talking about it a week later. They were talking about how cool it was to meet a professional athlete and how they were telling each other their dreams. We continue to reference it when we talk about behavior and if it is going to help us reach those dreams. The speaker made my kids feel incredibly comfortable and also valued as individuals.” Hearing about the profound impact that athletes have had on an organization just by simply showing up is a feeling that is deeply humbling and rewarding for all!
What is Your Favorite AFH Moment
My favorite moment at AFH thus far has been traveling to Africa to work on an initiative around gender equality. While there, we were able to meet with prominent athletes that felt compelled to use their platforms to move the needle on this critical cause. We also had the opportunity to link up with a couple of local organizations that use sport as a vehicle for social change. During one particular site visit in a slum of Kenya, I noticed that there were soccer balls lying around made of lumped up garbage and string. There’s a great story behind it that can be found here, but it was a simple reminder that sometimes all it takes to unite, empower and uplift an entire community is a ball. They must’ve caught me eyeing them because they insisted I take one with me. I gladly obliged, and to this day one of those balls sits directly across from my desk and serves as a daily reminder of the power that sports has to bring people together from all different backgrounds.
Athletes for Hope is proud to serve as an organization that is uniquely positioned to utilize the power of sport to address some of the most daunting issues of our time, including equality for all. In that spirit, we are excited to share that last week, members of our team traveled back to Africa with the goal of advancing issues of gender equality through the #Better4Kenya initiative. This movement was designed to accelerate the pace of change and elevate awareness about the benefits of gender equality by engaging influencers who are now helping to lead conversations around this important topic and thus spur national leaders to implement policy.
Our trip included stops in both Kenya and Tanzania, where we were able to meet with multiple NGO’s that are focused on various issues under the umbrella of gender equality. These topics include issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual & reproductive rights, access to justice and many more. Additionally, one of the highlights from our time in Nairobi included conducting a workshop for the top 70 men’s and women’s players from Kenya’s premier league football clubs. Players engaged in conversations around the opportunities they have as Kenyan footballers and consequently the immense value of using their platform to advance society in a meaningful way. We also discussed what an equal and inclusive Kenya meant to each player, which resulted in a recognition that while longstanding societal norms have presented obstacles, each player can use their stature in the community to help be part of the solution. We look forward to continuing to work with these incredible athletes as the #Better4Kenya initiative seeks to amplify the work of NGO’s by connecting players to upcoming engagement opportunities. Stay tuned!
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Athletes for Hope has teamed up with our partners at Hive to address the overarching theme of gender equality. The goal of this initiative is to accelerate the pace of change by engaging influencers to help lead the conversation on gender equality. In that spirit, members of our team recently traveled to both Kenya and Tanzania with the purpose of meeting with athletes and teams that are willing to lend their platforms to taking a stand on this critical topic.
The week began in Nairobi, Kenya where we were joined by leaders of various prominent sporting leagues including the Kenya Rugby Union and Football Kenya Federation as well as individual athletes eager to join the #Better4Kenya program. We also met with The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), which utilizes the platform of sport to engender broad socio-economic development and effect social change.
The second portion of our trip took place in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Gender equality was of great importance to those we met with, some of whom included former track and field legend and current Tanzania Olympic Committee Secretary General, Filbert Bayi, as well as members of the Tanzania Football Federation. Three major issues under the umbrella of gender equality that our #BoraKwaTanzania campaign will emphasize includes girls education, female menstruation/hygiene and women’s economic empowerment. AFH also met with the Msichana Initiative, an organization established to advocate for the girl child’s right to education in Tanzania. Organizations like the Mschiana Initiative are imperative to achieving gender equality in Tanzania and we look forward to working with them in the future.
When our founders joined forces, they did so with the belief that Athletes for Hope would be uniquely positioned to utilize the power of sport to address some of the most daunting issues of our time, including equality for all. It is with this belief, that we remain committed to tackling gender equality and we are excited about continuing our work with both influencers and national governing organizations in Africa.