Change the Path, Cambia El Camino
Written by Brianna Canty
Maggie was wearing a graduation cap with her name in bold letters on the front and a white tassel hanging off the side. This wasn’t your typical graduation cap, nor was this your typical graduation ceremony. The caps she, Natalia, and Alice wore were art projects made by the visiting GSW Ambassadors from the Bay Area. And this ceremony wasn’t happening on a football field nor in an auditorium in America. These three young women were graduating high school in Paraguay, the first Paraguayan Ambassadors to graduate and attend college. As Pam told the three young women to move their tassels to the left side of their caps, Maggie began to cry.
Maggie’s tears were not tears of sadness. They were the emotional release of every hard moment and doubt up until then. A reckoning, a catharsis. They were the tears of someone who finally could say, “I did it.” With a “Certificado De Graduación” in her hands, Maggie had done something she never thought she could.
Last week, Maggie started la Universidad. She is pursuing a certification in physical education and dreams of becoming a teacher. Because of donations to GSW, Pam and Walter were able to set up a scholarship that funds her year of schooling and covers all expenses. Maggie can attend la Universidad free of financial burden and focus on her studies. This is the embodiment of why we do what we do—to ensure every girl, regardless of socioeconomic status or where they were born, has the opportunity to pursue their dreams. This is what every girl, every child, deserves.
In our conversation, it was the emotion that laced Maggie’s answers and the smile on her face that most struck me. Her words were few but spoken with passion and sincerity. There is a presence, a light, around her that is indescribable. She has carried the weight of the world on her shoulders…and yet exudes unabashed joy. Someone who has gazed upon the face of tragedy and chosen light? Chosen to fight? That is true strength.
That is Maggie.
La Fuerza De Familia, The Strength of Family
Maggie lives in a barrio with her six brothers and sisters and her mother. They are incredibly supportive of her projects with GSW. She told me that her mom is her inspiration, who she gets motivation from when times are hard. And I can see why.
Strong women raise strong women. Maggie’s mother had to fight for everything in her life. As a little girl, she didn’t grow up with her own parents and had Maggie’s older siblings when she was very young. Right after having Maggie, she had to leave and go back to work in the city to support their family. Maggie grew up watching her mother fight, her mother sacrifice, her mother persevere. She became a force of nature, a warrior, because her mother already was one.
During the interview, Walter added: “a mi, me hace fuerte conocer la historia de su madre.” It moves him, makes him strong, to know the story of Maggie’s mother. She is a single mother who worked to ensure her children had more than she did. Maggie has shouldered that burden as well–her work with GSW, graduating school, and her outreach projects have forged a new road for the young girls and boys following in her footsteps.
Quitting Is Not an Option
As with many, Maggie’s path was not a straightforward one or free of pitfalls. When she was 14, Maggie almost quit GSW and quit school. She was struggling to manage both on top of going back to work as a nanny. From Monday to Friday, she would care for two children for seven hours a day, making $80 a month. (For those of you that are quick mathematicians, that’s roughly 57 cents per hour.) To help her family, Maggie was going to join the 45% of other children in Paraguay who didn’t complete school past middle school.
Pam and Walter decided they could do more, they needed to do more. They realized Maggie was the perfect recipient for a full scholarship fund to help pay for school and support her family. She didn’t need to make a choice. She didn’t need to sacrifice one for the other. With the monetary support from GSW, Maggie was able to graduate high school while also completing her projects as a GSW Ambassador.
“Eso cambio su vida, Maggie,” Walter finished, and Maggie nodded in agreement. Her life was irrevocably changed.
But it wasn’t just her life that was changing. As a GSW Ambassador, Maggie was making a direct impact in her own community. Maggie, along with other GSW Ambassadors, have spearheaded a food kits campaign in Paraguay. They purchase the food with funds from GSW donations, place everything in bags, and then deliver them to families in need. Maggie said that delivering these food kits was something that has left a lasting impact on her life. With unshed tears brimming in her eyes, she remembered delivering a kit to an older woman who had recently lost her husband. The two sat and talked, Maggie listening to the woman’s stories, connecting, sharing and crying together.
The Rearview or the Windshield
In reflecting back on what Girls Soccer Worldwide means to the young girls in Paraguay, Walter had a beautiful message. He said, “the idea is to change the path to become a better path.” Maggie, like the other ambassadors, is doing just that. They are changing the path, inspiring the young girls in their community to dream big, go far, to do more. Están cambiando el camino.
Maggie is now the first person in her family to attend college. Her determination kept her in school and a part of GSW, setting an example for her younger siblings. Her message to them, and the other young kids in her barrio, is to never stop dreaming. They can achieve whatever they set their mind to and should never stop pushing forward.
Maggie is not the same person she was when she first became an Ambassador for GSW. Today, she is confident, has faith in her abilities, and a high self-esteem. “Eso es lo más importante,” Maggie added. “Confiar en mí misma.”
Her voice was thick with emotion when she said this; it transcended any and all barriers that might have separated us. We were on different continents, we spoke different languages, but in that moment, I saw all of her. I knew her.
Working with GSW has given Maggie the tools to believe in herself and what she can achieve. She leads with her heart, she is passionate and understanding, and she is a fighter. Maggie’s stubbornness, her cabeza dura, ensures she will carry on despite challenges and succeed in all she does. She isn’t dwelling on what she’s leaving behind in the rearview mirror, her gaze is fixed out the windshield towards the promise of the future.
At the end of our interview, Walter expressed that he is inspired by what Maggie has accomplished and proud of the young woman she has become. “You are changing the path,” he told her. “For your sisters, para que no tengan el sufrimiento que tu tuvistes, so they don’t have to suffer like you did, or your mom. That’s the beautiful part.”
What More Can You Do?
To meet and know these young women is a gift. Their strength, their grit, and their commitment to give back to others inspire us to be better. They are holding a mirror up to our souls, our humanity, and asking one piercing question: “What more can you do?” Is there more to give, more to fight for, more to achieve? Is there a need only you can meet, a way to give back, lives you can change?
Maggie, Maria, and the other Ambassadors in Paraguay have answered this query, leaping and soaring into unknown possibilities, relentlessly chasing their dreams. They see limits, and instead of folding in on themselves to fit them, they wonder how to break free.
Maria and Maggie’s stories are moving, their willingness to give back and help are inspiring. They are changing the path, cambiando el camino, for their communities in Paraguay. They’ve asked of themselves, “What more can I do?”, and they’ve answered.
Girls Soccer Worldwide!
To learn more about Girls Soccer Worldwide and what we do, click here.
To learn more about Maggie and her journey, check out this video GSW made during their trip in 2019, and check out this blog written by Walter Pratte in 2021!
Previous Blog: Our Heart and Our Why: Maria Lujan