UNIONDALE, New York -- The love of soccer started when Jessica Monge was 10-years-old. Little did she know that her passion would later turn into non-profit, providing kids in El Salvador with the funds to continue their soccer program.
Pazitos was created when Monge's uncle, who is also one of the youth soccer coaches in El Salvador, asked her to help collect donations for cleats or shin guards for the players. Monge was on a trip to visit some family who lives there and decided to help out.
In March of 2019, the small town in El Salvador named El Achiotal lost all its funding for its youth soccer program. Monge decided she wanted to do more than just send some uniform shirts, so she started a fundraiser. This fundraiser eventually became Pazitos Play for Peace.
The soccer program keeps boys and girls of El Achiotal engaged, healthy, and out of high-risk activities in one of the poorest countries in the world.
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"If the kids don't have soccer, then they're just doing who knows what," said Monge. "Soccer is what they need to start on a positive route and without soccer, it's like what do you do?"
Pazitos provides cleats, uniforms, transportation, and other soccer equipment to upkeep with the needs the youth soccer league may not have due to lack of funding.
Since co-founding Pazitos, Monge went to visit the kids in El Salvador and to see how much the non-profit benefited them from when she first started fundraising.
"The first time I met them they were really shy," said Monge. "Now they are in these cute uniforms playing and I see their confidence growing a little bit. I could tell you from growing up when you have a brand new uniform you feel like a whole new person and you feel like you're ready to conquer the field."
Now that Pazitos has helped fund the youth soccer leagues in El Salvador, they are expanding to other fields of community service. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Monge hasn't been able to see the kids again, but keeps in touch virtually and has had Pazitos collect food and provide aid to those in need during this time.
The program also wants to provide youth with platforms to further their education in El Salvador to keep them on the right track.
"They don't know what they want to be when they grow up," said Monge. "Kids don't have that much encouragement to finish school, so they don't even know what they are going to do if they graduate school. This is what they have. They look forward to it every day and I don't know what they would do if they didn't have this activity to look forward to."
Contact Community Journalist Alex Ciccarone