As she looked out over the beautiful green trees and expansive soccer fields surrounding her, Elisa couldn’t help but laugh.
She grew up on this very property, but it hasn’t always been the thriving ministry it is today. Back then, “it looked nothing like what it looks like now. We didn’t even have doors!” she recalled.
Elisa’s parents moved to the poverty-stricken town south west of Monterrey almost three decades ago to launch a community center designed to plant seeds of hope in the community. Their daughter still remembers the seeds of wisdom they shared with her when she was young.
“We didn’t have many things, but because it was all we knew; we were very, very happy,” she said. “Still, my parents always taught us to want more out of life.”
That mindset is foreign to many people in our small town, presenting Elisa and her parents with unique challenges in reaching out to the community.
“When my mom wants to buy children a new pair of shoes or new clothes, some don’t want to accept it. They say, ‘No, these are my clothes and I’m proud of them. I’m poor because my parents were poor and my grandparents were poor.’ It’s almost like pride, but it’s a cultural mindset we want to break,” said Elisa.
Elisa and her husband, Paco, now lead the Saved by Soccer program, teaching local children not only how to excel at Mexico’s most popular sport, but how to excel in all areas of life so they can dream bigger.
“Many children here have grown up believing that when you turn 12, you have to go out and work, or you have to get married when you’re 14 or 15. You have to pitch in somehow,” said Elisa. “We’re trying to show them that it’s okay if you look for a job or get married when you’re older.”
Carrying the weight of these adult responsibilities at such an early age meant that, when Elisa’s parents arrived in central Coahuila to begin their outreach program, most people had stopped studying after sixth grade and didn’t know how to write or read.
Elisa believes soccer has helped change that as well. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, it’s just a game,’ but it teaches you discipline. We’re telling these kids to remember their uniforms, to arrive on time, to eat well — it’s so much more than ‘just a game,'” she said.
Slowly but surely, the educational level of their little community has increased. “Through soccer, my parents took people to the next level and helped them finish ninth grade, then high school. Now this generation of youth that my husband and I are taking under our wing are going to university, so we have future doctors, lawyers and engineers!”
For Elisa, watching that cultural shift has been one of the most fulfilling parts of her job. Beneath the excitement and pride in her voice, you can hear echoes of her parents’ mission — not only for the children of central Coahuila, but for their own children as well.
“We want people to know that poverty is in the head and not about how much money you have in your wallet. We want to encourage young men and women to want more out of life.”
Learn more at savedbysoccer.com