People Choosing Peace: Stephen (USA)
At the age of 23, Stephen Schirra founded his own nonprofit organization Around the Worlds, Around the World – with a mission of bettering the lives of underprivileged youth all over the world through the game of soccer. He runs free-of-charge workshops at orphanages, schools, churches, feeding programs, refugee homes, and earthquake relief centers in 21 countries.
Stephen believes the game of soccer has always had the power to transcend boundaries in race, gender, religion, and even socio-economic status.
“In essence, that’s what makes it the perfect platform to affect change where change is needed,” he said.
“Soccer can be seen as an escape for children who have endured such struggle at such a young age, and for some, it can even represent an opportunity to break away from the perils of poverty. When connecting these kids to the sport, it is never truly known what the final outcome may be, but we can only hope that their lives have been changed just as much as ours have.”
Stephen often works in dangerous neighborhoods all over the world, running programs in gang-controlled areas of San Salvador, El Salvador, and the mountains of Medellin, Colombia, as well as in the earthquake-devastated regions of Guayaquil, Ecuador. After working at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, Stephen was inspired to start the Gabriel Yeris Scholarship Fund - an ode to a clinic participant who emerged from an Around the Worlds program motivated enough to earn a scholarship at a prestigious new school. The new scholarship fund has been designed to recognize one graduating high school senior using sports to make a difference in the community and beyond.
His organization also runs domestic clinics for underprivileged children coming from youth shelters and refugee foundations.
“Although much of our work is done internationally, I’ve seen poverty in our own communities here in the US, even as close as our own backyards,” Stephen said.
“Often, these issues go unnoticed, especially when placing a heavy focus on underdeveloped communities abroad. However, I never wanted to forget about the multitude of need that exists here in our own country.”