Paul Goodrich ’90
Turns Passion For Soccer Into Support For African Youth
As a Wittenberg student, Paul Goodrich’90 developed his skills in two seemingly unrelated fields – first, as a top soccer player for the Tigers (he was twice named All-American and was recently inducted into Wittenberg’s Athletic Hall of Honor) and second, as a geography major interested in exploring and understanding the world. As a graduate, he has devoted himself to combining those twin passions to help create a better future for African boys and girls through his organization, African Sports Outreach (ASO).
The wheels started turning for Goodrich after he graduated from Wittenberg and was serving in Togo, West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer. He saw how desperately poor local children were, living day-to-day, resorting to hawking batteries, tomato paste and other goods on the street just to stay alive. And then he noticed how that all disappeared –for an hour or so – when they were playing street soccer. So he formed a team, coached and trained them, and found sponsorship to give them an education and food. Today, ASO sponsors more than 200 boys and girls, providing them with a meal a day, schooling, critical medical support, after-school soccer training and a safe place to study and meet with their peers.
“Soccer is the glue that keeps these kids coming back,” Goodrich says. “And that gives us a real chance to help them develop life skills. This is not a hand-out; this is support for kids who have none.”
Goodrich is dedicated to sponsoring a child until s/he graduates from high school or gets a job – he believes that this kind of long-term commitment is the only way to ensure that each child succeeds. ASO also provides support to other organizations in Africa that follow a similar “school-for-life” model that uses education to empower youth. He relies on sponsors from the United States, as well as money he makes from his soccer camps and clinics in Oregon.
Goodrich’s early interest in other cultures was sparked in part by his college roommates (who came from Brazil, South Africa and Namibia). He says these experiences helped him create an organization that bridges cultures through sport to make a difference in young lives.
“I took the light from my friends and professors and shared it with others through my work,” he says. “Now I take the light from my African kids and share that with potential sponsors, friends and family in the United States.”