"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand."
Nelson Mandela delivered these words 14 years ago and they couldn't be more true.
I've seen the impact sports can have on children from all over the world. I've witnessed children who have gone through traumatic experiences light up as soon as they are given a soccer ball. Some of these children have shared with me their dreams of being the next big soccer player.
These encounters have left no doubt in my mind that sports play a significant role in the social, emotional and physical development of children.
With the World Cup kicking off this month, I'm reminded of the powerful stories of children who have gained from playing sports. Children like Tiago.
At age 11, Tiago and his brother had to live with their grandmother in Northern Mozambique after losing their parents to cholera. The high costs of food, clothing and overall care were too much for their grandmother to handle. As a result, the boys became severely malnourished and weak, which led social workers to take them to SOS Children's Villages in Pemba, a port city in Mozambique.
At the SOS Village, the two were put on a nutritionally balanced diet to help them regain their strength and health. The nutritious meals paired with the love from their SOS Mother meant they began to flourish.
Eventually these brothers were able to run around the Village and have fun with other children. And they sure loved soccer -- especially Tiago.
Soccer brought the best out in Tiago. He became energetic and enthusiastic about the game. It helped boost his self-esteem, taught him about teamwork, and gave him the opportunity to develop strong bonds with his teammates.
Tiago's talent and dedication also caught the attention of coaches from SOS Villages. He was soon asked to join the SOS Village's soccer team, and helped them compete in matches against other community teams. Soccer also inspired Tiago to set goals and work hard to achieve them.
"I would love to play as well as David Beckham. But I know that to be a professional soccer player takes a lot of hard work. I'm willing and excited to take on the challenge, even while keeping up my grades at school!" Tiago said.
Today, Tiago is still enthusiastic about soccer and may move to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, to live in a youth facility that has a school specializing in soccer.
His story of survival and beating the odds inspires me every day to make sure vulnerable children around the world are given the same opportunities he has had.
Opportunities that allow children to thrive and enjoy their childhood.
Join me and the rest of #TeamSOS at www.sos-usa.org to continue bringing joy into the lives of these children. With your help, we can provide children with the necessary tools to overcome adversity and build the confidence they need to achieve their dreams.