RICHMOND, VA (April 13, 2017) – The ECNL and the Amazing Young Women movement is dedicated to showcasing females that have helped shape the league into the top female youth soccer development platform in the world. As part of the movement, the ECNL is encouraging amazing young women to share their stories. We are excited to announce Olivia Smith as the ECNL Amazing Young Woman Spotlight of the Week. Smith is currently a member of the FC Nova ECNL U16 team, returning from a 4-month trip to Thailand with her family where they assisted in establishing schools and additional programming for children and families within the region.
Smith is a native of Boise, Idaho and has been playing soccer for FC Nova since she first stepped onto the pitch at the age of four. She comes from a large family with 5 siblings, two older brothers, two younger brothers and a younger sister, all of which play soccer. The beautiful game is just one of the passions they share as a family. The Smith family enjoy traveling near and far to help others in need. They have taken two 4-month mission trips to Asia as a part of their “bucket list”. Both experiences propelled the family to look into the process of starting schools in Thailand and Cambodia to help break the cycle of poverty.
The first mission trip came when Smith was in the 5th grade, spending four months in India, Thailand and Cambodia orphanages and spending time with youth in each country. The most memorable part of the trip for Smith was the time spent in India. They volunteered at a boarding school with children of parents with Leprosy, an infectious disease that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. Smith spent her mornings helping the children read, and in the she would assist with teaching the children how to help bathe and bandage their parents lesions.
“My favorite part of giving back is working with the children,” Smith said about her time doing mission work. “It is eye-opening to see these children who have nothing, yet they are more than willing to give you everything they have. It confirmed my opinion on [material] things, and that “things” do not bring you happiness. Giving back to others makes my heart smile. You can actually see how their lives change for the better, and that has a direct impact on my life and my mission.”
The Smith family learned a lot about poverty while in Asia. Once children aged out of the orphanages the majority had no money or family for support, leading them right back into the cycle of poverty. It was a never-ending circle, with very little resources available to break through. This issue inspired the Smith family to establish school systems to help break the cycle in both Thailand and Cambodia. The schools would offer free education, such as learning to speak English and general computer skills, in exchange for community service hours for young adults aged 18 to 30.
The focus of the second mission trip was breaking ground with schools in different regions. This past September through January they targeted Thailand as their first major project with the new initiative to make a bigger impact. The Smith family set up One Life at a Time, the foundation of the school establishment project. The environment they envisioned would offer a place for young adults to both live and learn after graduating from the orphanages. To offset what is provided to them, community service hours would be returned to continue the positive impact on the community through work with local orphanages and senior living facilities.
While in Thailand working to enhance the school systems, Smith would wake up every day and complete three hours of online school work of her own, before heading to various orphanages. Some days she would go on site visits to plan where to build the next school, and some days she would explore the city and immerse herself in the culture to better engage with the youth. Smith would also carve out some time with a personal trainer to stay in shape for when she returned to FC Nova. She enjoyed the sessions because she never had to train by herself on a consistent basis, and it gave her the opportunity to work on specific elements of her game.
While they do not have a set date to return to Thailand or Cambodia, the Smith family will be returning to help build the schools and check on the progress being made in the near future. Smith will continue to stay involved with her church while at home in Boise, Idaho and volunteer her time to organizations such as senior living facilities and food banks in her community.
“Olivia Smith is a true representation of what the Amazing Young Women campaign represents, and the principles associated with the mission. We have coined the phrase ‘Championship Mentality’ here at FC Nova, one that Olivia truly embodies in all aspects of life. Beyond the medals, trophies and accolades we collect through sport, the most important life skill is mentality. It transfers to anything in life,” Eric Simmonsen, FC Nova Director of Coaching and Player Development said about Smith. “Olivia is one of many within our club with this trait. We are so proud of her service and willingness to ‘give to get’ out of life. She truly is an Amazing Young Woman and Champion for life!”
We wish Olivia Smith and the Smith family the best of luck in their future travels and endeavors. Thank you for being an Amazing Young Woman and making an impact on countless lives around the world.
All pictures provided by the Smith family.