July 3, 2003 - The Oregonian : Togo RPCV Paul Goodrich honored for African Sports Outreach

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Togo: Peace Corps Togo : The Peace Corps in Togo: July 3, 2003 - The Oregonian : Togo RPCV Paul Goodrich honored for African Sports Outreach

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Togo RPCV Paul Goodrich honored for African Sports Outreach

Togo RPCV Paul Goodrich honored for African Sports Outreach

It's how he plays the game

A Portland man is honored for his 10-year devotion to a nonprofit soccer organization in Africa


Paul Goodrich's fluency in French and working knowledge of Spanish have served him well in his travels to Togo, Dakar, Senegal, Bolivia and France, among other countries.

But the Portland resident found a universal language that opened even more doors: soccer.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in 1990-92 helping modernize agriculture in southern Togo, the former college All-American played soccer with locals as a way to get to know them better.

So when village chiefs asked him to start a youth soccer team, he did. And over the past decade, one team became more than 75 throughout Africa. Goodrich's nonprofit, African Sports Outreach, provided players' coaching, uniforms, school and medical expenses. The organization operates a 300-student soccer academy in Lome, the capital of Togo, as well as AIDS-prevention and literacy programs.

Earlier this month, the Peace Corps gave Goodrich one of 12 national Franklin H. Williams awards, which honor former Peace Corps volunteers of color who have put their overseas experience to work in their communities.

"I hope this award will open more opportunities to connect people of different cultures through sport," Goodrich, 35, said. "There's nothing like it. There's an immediate connection."

Wilfredo Sauri, director of diversity recruitment for the Peace Corps, said Goodrich stood out as an award candidate because of his lasting commitment to the organization's goals.

"He hadn't just been doing this for one or two years," Sauri said, "but 10 years, since he returned." Ohio to Togo Goodrich grew up in Ohio and moved to McMinnville with his family in the middle of high school. Of African American and French descent, Goodrich was one of a few students of color at McMinnville High School in the late 1980s.

He graduated from Wittenberg University in Ohio, where he was a NCAA Division III All-American forward and center-midfielder. He joined the Peace Corps, helping rural farmers in the village of Kpele-Ele, Togo, convert from hand labor to cattle-driven farm machinery. As part of his work, he also taught farming techniques to street youths. In his spare time, he played soccer with them.

After being one of the only black students in his high school, Goodrich found that he was a novelty in Kpele-Ele because he was light-skinned and could play soccer.

"They couldn't believe that a 'white' person could play like that," he recalled.

Tribal leaders, concerned about street youths who had dropped out of school because their parents couldn't afford to send them, asked Goodrich to capitalize on his rapport with them and start a soccer team. He did.

They played on a barren dirt field with clumps of weeds, using rudimentary bamboo goal posts that fell apart. When his time in Togo was up, he made a promise he would continue to support the team.

Back in Portland, he received in-kind donations of equipment and uniforms from Nike, Linfield College, Eurosport and other companies, which helped him start more teams. He connected with schools and colleges to donate old soccer jerseys. Going full time After returning from the Peace Corps, Goodrich got his master's degree from Ohio University, and worked for Catholic Relief Services in Dakar and Senegal, Northwest Medical Teams, the University of Portland and Nike.

All the while, he kept African Sports Outreach going in his spare time, spending most of his evenings keeping track of staff and teams in Africa. He also forged partnerships with the renowned Tahuichi Soccer Academy in Bolivia, known for recruiting and coaching some of the best players in the world from developing countries.

He plans to help bring a team and coaches from Tahuichi Academy to play and do clinics with the Westside Metros Soccer Club in Beaverton in mid-July, in part to help promote African Sports Outreach.

He also met, and continues to collaborate with Ghanaian soccer star, Abedi Ayew Pele.

"He's like the Michael Jordan of soccer," Goodrich said. "Having a picture of me with him was better than a passport at airports and international border crossings in Africa."

After nearly a decade of juggling African Sports Outreach with other jobs, Goodrich decided his heart was really in his organization.

In 2000, he gave up his Nike salary, and with it his cellular phone and other trappings of a yuppie lifestyle. He set up an office in his Southeast Portland apartment and became African Sports Outreach's full-time president.

Goodrich has burned through his retirement and savings to keep the organization going and has yet to pay himself a salary. But the teams and academy in Africa have been successful, and there are 10 youths at the soccer academy in Lome who are taking their baccalaureate, or college equivalent.

"This is the most encouraging result," Goodrich said. "I'm not trying to produce professional players, though some have the talent to do that.

"I'm hoping that soccer will open the doors to education for them, whether it's because they stayed in school to play or they can get a college athletic scholarship and study engineering or something else."

Angie Chuang: 503-221-8219; angiechuang@news.oregonian.com.

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Story Source: The Oregonian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Togo; Soccer; Sports; Service



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