ENVEST (Empowering New Voices Through Education and Sports Training) is a two-way cultural exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and Sports Diplomacy Division.The grant was awarded to Carrie LeCrom and the Center of Sport Leadership at VCU who is partnering with Utah based Goals for Girls for this phase of the exchange. This exchange centers around female youth soccer players from India and the United States. Six months ago, the U.S. delegation traveled to India. This week, the Indian delegation is in Salt Lake Center for a Girls Leadership Summit
ENVEST girls arrived off their long flights to a bunch of incredibly excited Goals for Girls Alumni girls. Posters welcoming each organization were made, as well as candy leis. After arrival, they went to their host family homes where they settled in, got tours and orientation of the homes, and cleaned up.
The welcome dinner was at a beautiful Salt Lake City park, and included the Indian delegation, Goals for Girls alumni and their families. One of the most popular restaurants in Utah is called Cafe Rio, which is a Mexican restaurant that we all love. They catered the dinner, and one of our awesome host families hosted, and decorated the tables making the dinner feel extra special. The Indian delegation seemed to enjoy the new food. The bluegrass band came to welcome the girls, and everyone seemed to really enjoy clapping and singing to the music. After dinner, we brought out a soccer ball pinata, and had the girls take a hit at it to release the candy that was inside of it.
The girls were presented with welcome bags, which contained a welcome letter, water bottles, notebooks, chapstick, deodorant, pens, snacks, and more. All of these items were donated by some awesome Utah companies. Additionally, each girl received a program handbook and we reviewed the ENVEST program, and the girls received their ENVEST t-shirts. The night ended with some soccer juggling games and an American game called corn-hole.
Saturday was a day designated to learn more about Utah history, government and culture. We met at the Utah State Capitol Building where a representative from the University of Utah’s Global Engagement office dropped off some welcome bags for the girls. We then moved inside the Capitol for a tour that introduced the girls to how our state and federal government works, including the different branches of government. The girls met with Utah Senator Davis, who represents the 3rd District (he represents about 100,000 people) and sat with the girls and discussed his role. The girls asked amazing questions, like: “What are your plans for the upcoming 5 years?” “What are some of the recent laws that have been passed?” We were very impressed with the way girls looked some of these government officials in the eye, and made inquiries with such confidence.
After the Capitol Building tour, we went to “Temple Square”, which is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the largest religion in Utah) has its world headquarters. The girls toured a huge conference center where the church has it’s yearly meetings, and then their temple and beautiful grounds.
After touring, we walked to a popular park in Salt Lake called Memory Grove park, where we ate lunch on blankets, had popsicles, and played get to know you games. We then had a discussion about how Salt Lake is the home to many refugees, and talked about what a refugee is. We then went to a big community festival celebrating World Refugee Day.
We then headed to Judge Memorial Catholic High School, where we played a friendly match with their girls soccer team. We played on a turf field that overlooked the cityscape.nnn
One of the families (The DiGregorios) hosting the CEQUIN girls then had the entire group over for dinner. They barbequed chicken, had vegetable skewers, watermellon, potatoes and salad. It was delicious and the girls loved it! Many of them got to jump on a trampoline for the first time, which was quite an experience. It was a wonderful evening filled with laughter and good company
Sunday was designated as a day with host families. Each of the 6 host families spent the day differently. A few families decided to go to the Salt Lake Bees baseball game where we ate lots of ballpark food: nachos, churros, cotton candy, and dippin’ dots were a hit! The girls even got to meet the mascot and get some good pics.
After the game, some of the girls went swimming, while others went to the Indian Market to get ingredients for a special dinner. The Riffo-Jensen’s got a treat tonight as the girls from Shining Stars FC made dinner for the family. It was a really special thing for the girls to be able to share their culture with the people they felt have become like family. Click here to watch a beautiful video of that experience.