Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Can You Help Us Get School Supplies to Children in Costa Rica?

An Urgent Need & An Amazing Opportunity For You To Help Children Get the School Supplies They Need

It is February and February is the time in which families in Costa Rica head out to buy the $100 of school supplies each of their children need in order to continue going to school. Stores fill the newspapers with ads about special deals on what the students need. It is an exciting time for a country that has fought very hard to help their people be educated.

February is a little different if you are a young person living in a precario or squatter's settlement like the El Triangulo de la Solidaridad neighborhood we work in. With the average income per household being around $200 in the precario, most families can barely afford one child's $100 of school supplies and that is only if things are going well for their family.

It is easy to see why the average precario resident has only made it through the 3rd grade. It only takes one tough February economically where $100 might as well be $1 million and the boy or girl is forced to drop out of school, surrendering any chance of a life outside of poverty one day.

Fifty Young Peoples Lives Are Changed in the Precario

In 2007, our team began helping about nine families purchase the school supplies they needed. It was life-changing for them but, surprisingly, it was life-altering for us as well. Family members wept as we walked into hand them the supplies they needed.

In 2008, we went ahead and set aside $1000 to help 10 families get school supplies. We sent out an email to all of you and you responded by either donating $ or supplies. Your response was overwhelming. As a result, over fifty students received school supplies. The precario was dramatically impacted.

Over the course of the year, we took the program further. We opened tutoring centers in the precario (see photo above) where the students could also receive the tutoring support they would need to be able to do well in school. It isn't enough to help kids get into school. We have to help them do well once they get there. These tutoring centers have been a powerful tool, providing upper class private school students with the life changing opportunity to come and volunteer the tutoring that is dramatically helping the children from the precario.

This is a gift that keeps on giving.

How You Can Help A Child Have A Chance At A Future

So here we are in February again. Families are filling out request forms that we have designed where they are agreeing to report their child's grades each report card so we can track their progress and provide support for those who might struggle. We have just started collecting the lists and have already received 34 back with 59 in total having been requested.

I want to invite you into an amazing opportunity to help these young people and their families. If you can and if you are interested, please click on the link below to go to our website at and make an online donation. You can also send in a check to our office at P.O. Box 14387, San Antonio, TX, 78214-4387. Your gift will help us to be combined with those who have brought down school supplies to fill these lists and help these students have the opportunity to stay in school.

Click Here to Go to Boy With a Ball's Online Donation Page to Make a Donation to Help These Students

One Final Exciting Update

A dream is coming true for the Boy With a Ball/FUNDADEJO team in Costa Rica as Auburn University's graduate design program has taken on the project of designing and coming to Costa Rica to build us a community/tutoring center for us in the precario. The group is currently raising funds for the project with our staff to design the building. To find out more, click on the tutoring center box below.

(Click here to enter the site and learn more about the center!)

Thank you so much for your ongoing investment in our work to reach and equip young people. It is great to work with you as we walk into seeing these young lives changed.

Jamie Johnson

Executive Director

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Facing a Threat

Boy With a Ball/FUNDADEJO in San Jose, Costa Rica continues to work in a squatter’s settlement or “precario” located just north of downtown San Jose called “El Triangulo de la Solidaridad.” The precario has a population of around 2,500 people, mostly Nicaraguan immigrants, living on just three acres of land. Their quality of life is third world.

Many Costa Ricans are afraid to go into a precario because these areas are dramatically impoverished and crime-ridden however our experience has been that this precario is a humble village full of families and individuals looking for a better life than what they had back in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s average annual salary per person is $600. Costa Rica’s is $6,000.

One great threat to the precario as long as we have been there is the continual presence of a small group of drug dealers who usually hang out in the front of the community. This group has changed over the years with new guys flowing in and some of the older guys disappearing but there are always at least one or two of them there each day as we walk in to talk to families, lead groups or facilitate activities.

Recently, however, something had changed. The group of drug dealers was growing and, as a result, the precario was changing. Young guys we had been reaching began distancing themselves from us and gravitating toward the dealers. Our credibility weakened and the group of drug dealers and their cohorts grew from the usual two to five guys to a group of between 10 – 20.

Something had to be done.

Confronting the Drug Dealers

In October of last year, our teams arrived for a Saturday morning walkthrough and were greeted by the dealers yet again so we took action. Two of our leaders walked up to the two main dealers and confronted them. “We know what you are doing in this community,” we said. “We know that you are drawing young people into drugs and we aren’t going to let you do it anymore.” We went on to talk to them about their futures and to tell them we could help them get back into school or to find real jobs. It was a dramatic moment and many in the community stopped to watch. The dealers were nervous and mostly just laughed uncomfortably .

Then we walked away.

The Drug Dealers Strike Back

It was just a few days later that a call came into the office. The guy who was distributing drugs to these dealers had ordered them to “shank” or stab me and one of our leaders from right there in the precario. They believed we were going to call the police and have them arrested. Things got a little tense for a few days.

In our next visit to the precario we walked up to them, shook their hands and made it clear that we weren’t leaving. Instead we actually went out of our way to get a group of our male leaders to play basketball right next to the dealers each week as a way of showing the community that the dealers had no power. We were not scared and we weren’t going to go away.

We found out later that the community had confronted the dealers and told them that the community would go after them if anything happened to any of us. We were a good part of the community in their eyes and they protected us.

A Few Days Ago…a Breakthrough

This past Saturday as we walked into the precario for the first time in several weeks, we came upon the dealers as they sat in the middle of the precario smoking marijuana right next to several of the families homes who are leaders for us. We went directly over to sit with them.

As we sat down they began to mock us by saying, “Hey, we are smoking marijuana.” We began to talk to them about how marijuana can keep them from their dreams, how it will take away their motivation to do the things they need to do like finding real jobs or studying and how it is a gateway drug for even more damaging drugs like crack cocaine.

We spoke about how it also becomes a crutch to use when they face stress rather than allowing them to learn how to manage stress productively with faith, hope and love in a way that could make them good men, spouses or fathers one day. What felt good for the moment was destroying their futures.

One of the main guys was hooked on our words. His eyes locked on to mine and it was obvious that his heart was open. We told the two guys that we aren’t against them. Our team is dedicated to helping young people do well…to grow…to reach their dreams. We told them we could help them if they were open. We could eat lunch together and talk about getting back in school.

The guy reached over and shook my hand and said he would like that. Finally, a breakthrough.

Boy With a Ball Exists to Reach Young People, Equip Them as Leaders and Transform Communities

We thank God for this turn of events and also for your willingness to walk with us as friends as we develop teams capable of doing this very grassroots work in neighborhoods across the world. It is good work and work that very much needs to be done.

It is so very easy to talk of wanting to make a difference and yet so very much harder to do the actual tedious, constant, unglamorous work required to actually change things. Your financial support, your prayers and your friendship are truly making a difference in helping us to see young lives changed and then equipped to turn and help change others.

It is our very strong belief that this is the best way to change the world…one young person and one family at a time.

Your friend,

Jamie Johnson

What A Great Year!

I hope this finds you enjoying a refreshing and restful holiday season filled with celebration of a great 2008 and expectation for 2009. I can not think of a bigger year in the history of Boy With a Ball and we are very thankful for your friendship and support of our work to reach and equip young people.

Here are a few glimpses at what all has gone on this year:

-We have expanded our work in Costa Rica this year to the point of seeing a Costa Rican team emerge that is led and composed of Costa Ricans.
-We have relaunched Chris & Kelli Mora into their work in helping young people on the Southside of San Antonio after bringing them to Costa Rica for a time of intensive training.
-We have formed a global team that will work to help launch new Boy With a Ball teams in new countries while continuing to provide support for preexisting teams.
-We have been given the privilege of running six new Camp of Champions for Lincoln International School in San Jose, Costa Rica which allows us to help form and equip the future leaders of that country.
-We launched our great new website at
-We expanded our work in the precario or squatter's settlement in San Jose, Costa Rica including launching a Leader's Group that we hope will produce indigenous leaders who will be able to turn and lead this work within their neighborhood.
-We began corporate partnerships with the Intel Corporation and Pequeno Mundo (a large Costa Rican retailer) that are providing exciting possibilities for this next year.
-We are working with Auburn University's graduate design program to build a new building in the precario that will be used for housing much of our work there.
-We helped over 50 children in the precario get all of the school supplies they needed to get into school and then launched a tutoring center in the precario with the help of Lincoln School students that is helping around 30 children to stay in school.
-We had four international interns come to work with our Costa Rican team. Thanks Jillian, Kevin, Alice & Christine!
-We expanded our staff including adding Melody Strom as our Development Director in the office and Josue Garcia as a Program Director in Costa Rica. (For the record, Melody has a web camera...sorry inside joke.)
-We traveled to Washington D.C. as a staff for important meetings with USAID and others there.

Walking Together into Making Change

Our vision continues to be building teams in cities across the world that can reach and equip young people and their families to turn and help others. These past two years have been an amazing opportunity to turn what once was a far-fetched vision into a growing reality.

While having a great vision, strong board of directors, talented staff and dedicated volunteers all play a huge part in this work, we have come to realize that our greatest asset in this fight are those of you who are reading this right now. Without friends and supporters of our work, Boy With a Ball would transition from a thriving reality into being a failed vision. We are thankful for your committment to us and excited by what we have been able to accomplish together.

And Now For Some Important & Moving News

After six years of amazing work, Cindy Chen is stepping down as our Boy With a Ball's Global Office Administrator and stepping up to be a mom. I want to personally recognize Cindy for her sacrificial service and for the grace and excellence with which she has functioned as a part of the Boy With a Ball team these last years. Thank you, Cindy and Sam!

With this change, we are transitioning Boy With a Ball's U.S. office presence to San Antonio, Texas and ask for each of you to note this. Kelli Mora will be stepping into Cindy's position and this is our new mailing address:

Boy With a Ball
P.O. Box 14387
San Antonio, TX 78214-4387

Additionally, our new office number is 210-858-5812.

Again, thank you for your help this year and we look forward for an exciting year together in 2009.