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Alex Stern provided donations to Zion Gate school in Tanzania last year. Photo courtesy of Alex Stern.
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HHS graduate Alex Stern created the organization Project Kits 4 Kids. Photo by Madison Miller.
When Alex Stern arrived in Arusha, Tanzania, in southeast Africa last year, he came prepared to give. After choosing to take a year off between graduation from Hoover High School and starting college, Stern created an organization called Project Kits 4 Kids. He collected soccer gear from across Birmingham to give to students at Zion Gate, a school in a poverty-stricken area of Tanzania. Stern wanted to share his lifelong love of soccer and help bring the community together through a means he had always found effective: sportsmanship.
“I think sports facilitates a lot of things, specifically unity within the community,” Stern said. “[Developing countries] don’t have as much infrastructure as we do in particular. [Sports] has a way of bringing people together, which facilitates other things that are more important, like education and health care.”
He enlisted the help of friends, teammates and coaches to gather gear to hand out for the trip. Stern’s former coach at Briarwood Soccer Club, Ryan Leib, was happy to help make Stern’s goals become a reality.
“It was a great moment for me as a director,” Leib said. “We put a lot of time into soccer, but more importantly, we want to build the person and [direct] them to be ambassadors for Christ. I was really excited to help.”
When Stern arrived, however, he found students who needed more than sports equipment.
“I was kind of naïve when I got over there,” Stern said. “I wasn’t expecting how impoverished these countries were. I [realized] these kids need a lot more than soccer jerseys. They actually probably need other things first.”
Students in Tanzania and other impoverished countries must pay a fee to attend school, and many require sponsorships to do so since they cannot afford it themselves. Schools have a limited supply of materials since they are often responsible for providing other necessities as well.
“[Schools] are mainly focused on feeding the kids and providing them with a lot of medicine,” Stern said. “That’s a particular in some places like West Africa where disease is pretty rampant.”
After spending two months with the school, Stern returned to Birmingham and set out to continue to fulfill needs in poor areas of the world. He recently began his freshman year at UAB and is studying public health and foreign languages with a focus on Spanish.
When deciding where to go next, Stern knew that his focus in Spanish would allow him to help more people. He made contact with a backpacker he met in Tanzania who connected him with Hogar de Niñas Madre Albertina, an orphanage in Granada, Nicaragua, for children with living parents who can no longer care for them due to economic or social reasons.
Stern was able to assess the needs of the students and has been collecting donations based on those needs. He will leave in June, hoping to distribute not only soccer gear, but also school supplies and donated sponsorships for students.
“There’s so much of an excess of opportunity in America that we can all use it to benefit other places where it’s not as present.” Stern said.
After school, Stern would like to continue to work with foreign cultures and help to alleviate poverty. With future Project Kits 4 Kids plans, he hopes to continue to focus of filling a real need in each community.
“I want to do something that is more impactful,” Stern said. “It’s not that sports equipment isn’t good or unappreciated, it’s just that a lot more can be done.”