By: Meg Van Dyk
7,300 miles — the approximate distance from Piscataway, New Jersey to Delhi, India.
For forward McKenzie Meehan it was a vast distance to travel only to learn that on a small patch of grass with a circular ball at their feet, the space between these two nations is a great deal smaller than anyone could have ever predicted.
It was during an offseason trip to India that Meehan first had this revelation. The forward worked with several different organizations, including YFC Rurka Kulan to aid in the development of gender equity in the Kulan region, a farming town with a history of violence and drug-related activity.
But despite the circumstances the children in the area were exposed to, Meehan saw through her own eyes what the local people regarded the soccer club as — refuge.
“It was very evident that YFC has become an oasis from this drug-ridden village and has granted many children the opportunity to make positive choices,” Meehan said. “We stayed right in the village within a family’s home so on our walk to and from the YFC facilities, we would often see many kids from the YFC programs. Other locals in the village were very welcoming and kind, and we were told it was because they truly appreciate those who come to help support YFC.”
It was here while coaching the local children that Meehan met a young man, much like herself, who had dedicated his entire life to the craft of soccer and teaching it to those around him. Through several conversations together life was put into perspective for her and the other volunteers around her.
“I remember being a part of a conversation where myself and other volunteers were asked by a local coach what the hardest thing we faced on a daily basis was and we couldn’t get an answer out, meanwhile the coach was worried about what they’re going to eat each night,” Meehan said. “The truth is that’s what these kids we were coaching face on a daily basis.
So while the mission of the trip was much larger than anyone could have quantified, the goal became much simpler — help the children to forget, if just for a moment, the life going on around them and get lost in the their universal love for soccer.
And so, the distance and space between Meehan and the local children began to fade away as they sprinted up and down the small dirt field with a ball at their feet as equals.
“We met some incredibly inspiring people of all ages who are working to achieve such great impact within their communities,” Meehan said. “I know all of the programs have such a bright future ahead, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be just a small part of it!”
Now, several weeks later as Meehan has returned home and begun preparations for her own soccer journey she carries with her the images and lessons she learned during her time in India.
And anxiously waits for the day when she can once again return.