The Austin Chronicle

Copa Esperanza Benefits Local Charities

By Christopher Bond, March 15, 2010, 7:22pm, The Score

There are endless nonprofit organizations created all over the world. Some benefit children. Some benefit refugees or victims of natural disasters. We know about the need to fight hunger in Africa. We know about organizations doing their part to help the people of Haiti.

What we may not know is, although these organizations all have great intentions, they often work on the surface to fix issues that are deep-rooted cultural problems. But every once in a while an organization comes along with the right mindset to create long-term change. Villa Esperanza is one such organization.

Initially created in Ecuador, Villa Esperanza’s goal is to help underprivileged children in the area of early childhood education. “We focus on education because we believe it’s the most powerful means of empowerment to break the cycle of poverty,” said co-founder Gustavo Hernandez. There were unexpected problems in Ecuador including mentoring the parents on the importance of their kids’ education. Hernandez quoted a book on the subject called Generation College Students: A Literature Review, which states, “First-generation students may not have or be able to create a designated place or time to study at home, and they may be criticized for devoting time to school rather than family responsibilities." (Hsiao, 1992.)

Recently, Villa Esperanza has changed its focus to first-generation college students around Austin. Its hope is to become successful in the local community, then return to Ecuador in the future. “We quickly realized that doing international work is very difficult particularly for a small, young all-volunteer organization,” said Hernandez. After returning to Austin, Hernandez has worked with the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium to set up a scholarship for first-generation college students and has developed a mentoring program for their parents. ”We believe that the entire family contributes to college success.”

In order to raise funds to reach the organization’s goals, Hernandez chose to host a soccer tournament, aptly named the Copa Esperanza (the Hope Cup), because he felt the sport is representative of Villa Esperanza’s goals. “When we were doing our work in Ecuador, I would watch the children play soccer,” Hernandez said. “Then you see the players here in Austin, and there is a wonderful sense of common humanity you get from sharing the joy of the game.”

Copa Esperanza featured 12 teams with four playoff spots available. Each player paid $20 to play, with 70% of profits going to Villa Esperanza and the other 30% to Posada Esperanza, a nonprofit that benefits immigrant women and children. When questioned as to why a soccer tournament was the best way to raise funds, Hernandez said, “Soccer allows for individuals to display their skills while still being part of a team. I love the metaphor, and I believe and hope for Villa Esperanza to also be a key player in a team effort of social empowerment and change.”

If Hernandez’s goal of educating both youth and parents is realized, Villa Esperanza will open doors and undoubtedly create that long-term change.

For more sports blogging from Christopher Bond, please see El Mundo Sports.

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