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Alum starts soccer foundation

Nicole Toczauer | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2011 Notre Dame graduate Jeb Brovsky plays soccer for a living in Major League Soccer. Rather than only play for his own paycheck, however, Brovsky hopes to use the sport to create change the world over. To do so, he founded Peace Pandemic, a foundation to promote cross-cultural understanding through soccer camps.

Brovsky said the group was in India last December to host a soccer clinic for children,. The foundation not only affected the children, its work affected several others as well, he said.

“One day towards the end of the trip, [Manoj, the group’s taxi driver] approached me with a soccer ball wrapped in a plastic bag and tears in his eyes,” Brovsky said. “My translator told me Manoj was so inspired … that he saved up 250 rupees to buy his son his first soccer ball. He saw the influence of this sport and wanted his son to feel what these kids [in the clinic] felt.”

This weekend, Peace Pandemic will host a two-day 3-on-3 co-ed soccer tournament at Reihle Field next to the Stepan Center to raise funds for camps similar to the one held in India. Brovsky said the tournament is open to all Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students.

“The goal of the tournament is to raise awareness and funds for our camps abroad,” he said. “This particular tournament [is for] our camp this winter for boys and girls in Guatemala.” Senior Will Walsh, the project coordinator, said planning for the event began over a year ago. The Notre Dame Brazil Club as well as men’s and women’s soccer teams will volunteer at the tournament, he said.

“The tournament itself is set up like the World Cup,” he said. “Teams will compete in a bracket on Saturday, and the top ones will advance to finals. On Sunday, those teams will play in a single elimination tournament.”

The winners will receive t-shirts and gift cards to a local restaurant, Walsh said. The victors will also have the chance to play in a separate game against five Notre Dame soccer players.

“Soccer is one thing that really permeates through different cultures,” he said. “We hope a lot of kids come out and play for a good cause.”

Brovsky said the idea for this event and for Peace Pandemic originated during his studies at Notre Dame. Peace Pandemic blended his passion for social change, peace studies, soccer and entrepreneurship into one, he said.

“I saw the enormous potential of soccer to bridge cultural, national, social, economic, ethnic and religious gaps in the world today,” Brovsky said.

Peace Pandemic hosted its first international camps in the India this past December, he said. The clinics combined sport and health to teach children basic soccer skills and illness-prevention hygiene.

Brovsky said the camp coached boys in the morning and girls in the evening. At the end of each session, children met with staff in individual health sessions.

“With the boys, we want to focus more on the messages of nonviolence and responsibility. We talk about the equality of women with them and the importance of treating [girls] with respect and love,” he said. “We want the boys to feel like their aspirations in life are attainable and that they can change the world for the better.”

Brovsky said the message for girls is tailored toward empowerment. He said he hopes the clinics open them to opportunities in the future.

“The girls were astonished to see Caitlin [Phelan], the manager of our Peace Pandemic medical staff, and hear her speak with such confidence and direction,” he said. “They had no idea that a woman could hold that position, let alone go to school for medicine.”

Brovsky said running an international foundation has its challenges, the rewards are greater than he ever expected.

“After coaching and staying in the slums with these boys and girls, it not only changes their lives but it changes yours as well,” he said. “I know that anyone who is involved internationally with Peace Pandemic walks away with a new perspective, skill and more compassionate outlook on the world.”

Brovsky said as the number of soccer camps and tournaments held worldwide increase, the impact they make will grow as well. The tournament at Notre Dame is one small step in building momentum for this progress, he said.

“The more understanding and unity that we bring just through conversation and the sport of soccer moves the world one step closer towards peace,” he said. “Obviously this one soccer tournament won’t change the course of history, but this one soccer tournament will certainly change at least one young child’s life for the better.”

Registration will take place this week in LaFortune Student Center on Wednesday and Thursday. Teams of three to five people can register for $20. More information on the foundation can be found at http://peacepandemic.blogspot.com/.

Contact Nicole Toczauer at ntoczaue@nd.edu