The image has been highly romanticized: children in developing countries playing the "beautiful game," soccer, barefoot in the streets. Drew Chafetz has seen, and played with, such children and seen the conditions many face: broken glass, shards of metal and trash. In the latest installment of our Making a Difference series, VOA's Brian Allen will show you what Chafetz and his organization, love.futbol, are doing to help young soccer lovers.
It is an average Friday morning for Washington, DC native Drew Chafetz. On his laptop, the 25-year-old college graduate is logged on and plugged in, chatting with people across the world over the Internet.
He is one of the co-founders of love.futbol, a non-profit organization which solves a problem he saw while traveling in Morocco.
"I came across children playing in a back alley in a tiny village in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and this is an extremely common sight. I would often play soccer -- I still do -- whenever I'm in another country," Chafetz recalled.
"But these children were playing in this narrow alleyway, which was fine except there was this canal running through the middle of their pitch [soccer playing surface], and I was watching these kids jumping back and forth across the canal and chipping the ball back and forth across the canal," Chafetz said. "They all had beautiful smiles on their faces."
So, Chafetz started love.futbol, which makes safe soccer pitches for children to play on. With the help of the local communities, the group has built three of these safe, cement courts in Guatemala and promises more.
"Guatemala is our pilot country, Chafetz said. "Everything we are doing is to the end that we can scale this. We are developing a model that can be replicated easily."
Love.futbol is funded by donations, but Chafetz is currently seeking both federal and corporate sponsorships.
He says he hopes to build in other Central and South American countries, "Being well-established in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup is a major goal of ours, that's a country that we know we want to be in, it's the heart and soul of soccer," Chafetz said.
While most Americans at his age are starting down career paths that will lead to high-paying salaries one day, Chafetz says he would rather work to make a difference in the lives of children.
"On a personal level, it's extremely gratifying, I don't ever sit down at my computer about to start my work day and resent a second of it," he said. "It's wonderful to my brain, heart, and soul."
An achievement this young man measures not in money, but in the smiles of children.