Baseball brings a community together

“As the pitcher, you set the tone,” begins the coach of Casa Llena.  

“It doesn’t matter what the score is, what the crowd is yelling, or even who’s up to bat; the only thing you can control is yourself. Each time you’re on the mound, it’s a new opportunity to set the tone you want.”  

Self-regulation is one of the many life lessons players learn on IOM’s youth baseball team.  

Along with gameplay and technique, players learn life skills, including taking things one step at a time as they round the bases, and that helping each other is essential to meeting their collective goals.  

The name ‘Casa Llena’ or ‘Full House’ carries its own significance- a baseball term for when the bases are full, and scoring is imminent, it’s a reminder of the value of opening our doors to new neighbors.   

Baseball represents an unlikely connection between arriving Venezuelan migrants and Ecuadorian locals in a predominantly soccer-loving country. But the 20 migrant and local youth brought together through this program see it as an opportunity to form community. 

Yolannys, a 25-year-old Venezuelan migrant, has become close to both her fellow players and their parents. She says that joining the team has made her feel at home in a new country.   

When asked about the program’s impact on her, she describes how coming to practices has helped her keep focused on her goals and that the friends she’s made have given her the encouragement she needed to grow her new business.   

Samuel, a local player age-10, has enjoyed making friends, having fun, and adds that he’s learned a lot about the game from his Venezuelan teammates.  

But for Ximena, 15, the team’s star hitter, she doesn’t notice any difference between her and her Venezuelan teammates on the field. 

World Humanitarian Day 2021

I know I’m not alone when I say that this week has been a heavy one. Leading up to this year’s #worldhumanitarianday, and in the wake of recent events in Haiti and Afghanistan, USA for IOM team and I have been reflecting on how fundraising can enhance its impact through proactive, sustainable investment in development.

It is important to note that while last week’s events were sudden, they were not entirely unpredictable. Sitting on a fault-line in the Caribbean, #Haiti is vulnerable to disasters. What makes this event truly devastating is the underlying social and economic instability that will, in all likelihood, prevent a speedy recovery. We are deploying trucks with food and tents to communities still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake. And the myriad challenges facing #Afghanistan, which has suffered governance, socio-economic, and development challenges as a result of decades of conflict, are similarly structural and historic.

In responding to these crises, I often feel we are putting bandages on bullet holes. We can take comfort in the Talmudic proverb, “whoever saves one life, saves the world entire,” I feel as though launching emergency relief responses to predictable crises reveals the Sisyphus complex of the philanthropic sector.
To break free from this cycle, we in philanthropy must be proactive and truly start to use our platform and our tools to engender a world that is not less prone to crises, but one with the social and economic fortitude to be more resilient to them. We must focus on the transformation the world needs beyond the crisis du jour and then focus our resources on proactive solutions.

In a way, this also helps answer another question: how do we prioritize emergency responses? When disaster strikes it’s easy to mobilize action for a cause. But once the faces of distant suffering fade from the frontpages, action too begins to wane. In the past I’ve found myself reaching for a bigger, louder bullhorn, feeling the need to scream “look over here, look over there, we still need you here!”

I believe that by shifting philanthropy to focus on addressing the roots of an issue—the systemic challenges that underpin human suffering–we can avoid the pressure to see humanitarian needs as competing, and instead view them as simultaneous. If funders make not only deep but longstanding investments in a cause or region maybe it will relieve the anxiety the fundraising community feels to fight for attention. Moving forward, I want to learn how I, my team as agents to support development and human mobility, can cultivate and encourage that level of donor dedication long before the needs are urgent.

I encourage comments on: How can philanthropy transform our world? What’s the strategy to this game of whack-a-mole? Is it possible to “care” about everything all at once? And how can we translate care into effective, sustained action? #philanthropy