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Hero Kick Start Erika Contreras of Soccer For Peace has a goal to make the world a better place, one soccer ball at a time, thanks to her efforts in Miami and abroad benefitting noble causes. T e x t by Cr is t ina Zua zua E verywhere she looks, Erika Contreras sees a potential for helping others. As the Executive Director of the Soccer For Peace Foundation, Inc., she has found a great many outlets for this gift. Founded in Miami in 2008, Soccer For Peace aims to generate awareness for projects in Colombia that use soccer as a vehicle for social change. An entrepreneur in her own right, Contreras co- 74 founded her own business, Giggles, an “edutainment center” for kids in Brickell Key more than 5 years ago. Shortly after, she received an invitation from a prominent Colombian social entrepreneur to start and be the lead of the international arm of the Soccer For Peace Foundation in the U.S., and she hasn’t stopped growing the organization since. “Sometimes, seeing the results of our work motivates me to push myself more than ever,” she admits. “It helps give children from ages 5-17 a productive outlet for their energy, shows them the power of teamwork and connects them with role models who mentor and care about them.” Her own role model was her grandmother, whom she looked up to as a great leader, enterprising woman, and someone that was always willing to help those around her. The most recent campaign for Soccer For Peace is their “Striker” effort, which encourages donors to contribute a dollar a day for a year, which guarantees a full scholarship to the foundation’s workshops for an entire year and includes money for equipment, field visits, curriculum development and more. As for the future, Contreras has ambitious plans for the program and organization as a whole. In fact, she’s aiming to reopen an office in one of the poorest neighborhoods in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, that was closed due to lack of resources. And thanks to the joint efforts of a group of friends and volunteers with Soccer For Peace, who managed to raise the money to restore the office, Contreras and her team can expect to host more than 150 children this year, helping with nutrition, sports training methodology based on informative workshops and teaching recreational values that encourage good citizenry. “That’s the core of it,” she says. “Building a team, having passion and showing these kids that things can be different is what keeps us going.”; SoccerForPeace.org.