Children benefit from the large donation of soccer balls, courtesy of the SNHU Athletic Department and soccer teams.

SNHU athletic teams are constantly finding unique ways to give back. Most recently, the SNHU Athletic Department and both soccer teams donated 28 soccer balls to children from slum communities across New Delhi, India.

This project was sparked when Dr. Justina Oliveira, a member of the psychology staff at SNHU, was presented with the opportunity to visit New Delhi for one week through a nonprofit organization called Asha.

Asha, which means “hope” in Hindi, benefits over 700,000 people in 91 slum communities. The 30-year-old organization was founded by Dr. Kiran Martin, who graduated from Delhi University with two bachelor’s degrees in both medicine and surgery. Martin founded the organization shortly after treating victims of the cholera epidemic in 1988. Since then, Asha has been committed to providing services such as health care, education, empowerment and financial help.

After hearing Dr. Martin speak at the Reservoir Church in Cambridge, MA, which has a partnership with Asha, Dr. Oliveira was inspired to take action and volunteer.

Oliveira contacted Doug Blaise, the faculty athletic representative and a sports management professor, to find out if five soccer balls could be donated to the children. From there, Blaise contacted the coaches of the men’s and women’s soccer teams, Josh Taylor and Elie Monteiro, and the associate athletic director, James Gassman. Together, the SNHU Athletic Department and both soccer programs compiled 28 soccer balls, which were then deflated and flown to India.

Throughout the week, Oliveira helped distribute the soccer balls to multiple slum communities and utilize them for activities. Her experience in India was brightened by the overall excitement and generosity displayed by the kids.

“The soccer balls were one really cool part of it. The kids loved it,” Oliveira said, “It was one contribution…that we left there for them.”

Oliveira also mentioned the importance of having the opportunity to volunteer by physically going to India. Experiencing the different culture and learning about the communities had a powerful and lasting impact on her life.

“It would not have meant the same thing to just ship the soccer balls, as great as the donation was, without seeing what happened as a result.”

Oliveira noted that the Chandler Center was a large piece of what attracted her to SNHU because of its opportunities to students, faculty and staff. The center’s influence has inspired Oliveira to incorporate service learning into many of the classes she teaches.

“I feel that everyone could benefit from [service]. You go into it thinking that you want to do what you can for the community, but learn so much about yourself in the process.”

Further opportunities that involve service, donation and volunteer work can be found through the Chandler Center.