Today, Athletes for Hope (AFH) is honoring and observing International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), a day established by the United Nations to recognize the positive influence and contributions that sport has made in advancing human rights, social change, and economic development. AFH recognizes that sports are a powerful tool to not only bring different individuals together from all walks of life, but to also promote social change, diplomacy, racial and gender equality, and economic progress across geographical, cultural, and political boundaries. To honor this important day, we have highlighted three of our outstanding athletes that are using their platform in sports to create change and inspire those in their communities:
Lawrence Olum is a professional soccer player for the Portland Timbers and the Kenya National Soccer Team. He focused his life on being an athlete and mentoring those who are less fortunate by starting the Lawrence Olum Foundation which provides and supports educational and sport-related initiatives that identify and nurture young talent, promote physical and mental well-being, champion development of sports and fair-play for the youth in Kenya and beyond.
“Sports has changed not only my life but the people that look up to me including my daughter, my siblings and my parents. Through my involvement in sports, I’m able to be a provider for them. I owe so much of the success in my life to my involvement in sport.”
Natalia Gomez-Junco is a professional soccer player in Iceland. Natalia was born in Mexico and since a young age has been able to utilize soccer to develop skills outside of the sport. Soccer has helped her become the person she is today and paved the way for her to receive a bachelors degree from Louisiana State University. She continues to inspire individuals in her community and fans across the globe. Natalia has a passion for working with youth to help them believe that they can achieve their goals, whether in sport or not.
“Through sports, I have met incredible people, some of my closest friends. I have been able to live in different countries and broaden my perspective. My home country, Mexico, is crazy about soccer. But it is not until recent years that attention has been given to women’s soccer in Mexico. This is helping the country’s cultural transformation for gender equality, starting in sports and hopefully helping other areas as well. Sports have the power to change cultures and broaden minds in ways that other things rarely can. Sports bring people together, within a country and between countries.”
Mikel Thomas is an Olympic hurdler from Trinidad and Tobago. He has been an active AFH member who has a true passion for working with youth and physical fitness. Mikel has given back to the community on numerous occasions through our partner organizations, Marathon Kids and Active Schools. Mikel appreciates the tremendous opportunities that sport has provided him and finds joy in sharing the lessons he has learned along his journey with the next generation.
“Sport has been an evolution for me. It has allowed me to learn about myself and the world around me in the same journey.”