From VOA Learning English, welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in Special English. I'm Christopher Cruise.
And I’m June Simms.
This week on our program, we have stories about students. First, we tell you about medical students helping homeless people in Los Angeles. Then, we meet two Haitian students playing soccer for the University of Maryland.
We also learn how a thesis for a master's degree turned into a project to supply soccer balls to children in Africa.
Once a week, medical students from UCLA, the University of California, Los Angeles, work with poor and homeless people in Hollywood. The students bring supplies and medical records in a truck and set up chairs along the street for the patients. The students operate similar clinics in different communities on other nights.
The students provide medicine and offer clean socks and reading glasses to those who need them. Students in law and social work offer assistance in getting long-term aid from the government or private groups. A charity group offers nutritious meals to the patients.
Dr. Walter Coppenrath helped start this street clinic twelve years ago when he was a medical student. He now teaches at UCLA and sees patients at a nearby medical center. He says this mobile care is important for this population.
"Small infections on your foot might be able to be handled by just changing your socks and all that. But when those, quick, being able to wash in a bath or change your socks, they can actually lead to limb-threatening infections."
Charles Brownridge lives on the streets. He goes to the clinic every week, sometimes just to be with the students.
"I come down here. I like the atmosphere, some food, and they give us pretty good service. They're training, lot of these, sort of like rookies are doing an apprenticeship. And it's fun to be around youngsters. And it's a nice atmosphere."
Steffanie Becerra is a medical student who works with the patients.
"Basically they kind of see us as their only point of care within the medical system where they can get their medications filled. A lot of people with hypertension or diabetes who really have no other choice but to come here because they just can't afford the medications elsewhere."
Kevin Norris is an undergraduate who plans to go to medical school. He says his volunteer work at the clinic helps him understand his future role as a doctor, while the patients get attention and care.
"You really treat them as individuals deserving of respect, because so many of the homeless people here in Los Angeles are really just looked down upon and largely ignored by much of the population."
Earlier this month, the men's soccer team at the University of Maryland lost the last game of the regular season. But that was the only loss of the year for the Maryland Terrapins. They finished the season as the number one team in the country.
The team has six foreign-born players, including two students from Haiti.
One of those Haitian players is first-year student Christiano Francois. He was in Haiti when the powerful earthquake struck Port-au-Prince in January of twenty-ten. At the time, he was practicing for his high school team across the bay from the capital. He says some of his friends were killed. Others lost arms and legs. He feels lucky that his family, and their house, survived.
He came to the United States to finish high school. He was the star forward for St. Benedict's Prep, a high school in New Jersey.
"Since I been here, St. Benedict's Prep, my high school, we were number one in the nation, and then I came here and we're still number one in the nation – that's a good thing for me. I really appreciate that, yeah.”
Christiano Francois works hard on the field and in the classroom.
"That was my dream, to come to America, get education, because here they got better, like, education than Haiti. I just, I was really happy to come here and then to get education and then play soccer, to get better every day."
The other student from Haiti is Widner Saint Cyr. This was his third season at Maryland. He helped persuade Christiano Francois to join him at the school near Washington.
Haitians thrive on top US college soccer team
"It has been a great experience, you know, knowing that back home it's not easy, you know what I mean? So I'm enjoying it so far, learning from it, and growing from it and everything like that."
The team's longtime coach, Sasho Cirovski, is happy that the two young men decided to play for him.
"They're just really special people. And not only do they bring a great amount of soccer talent, but they bring in the locker room, and in the experience, a sense of gratitude and humility. They're just so grateful for the opportunity and really grab every ounce of energy."
Coach Cirovski was born in Yugoslavia and raised in Canada. He played college soccer in the United States.
"The U.S. universities are global institutions and soccer's a global game, so it just makes sense that we're looking for players overseas and the players overseas are looking at us. But soccer is an international language, and even though some of our players are just learning the English language, they fit in perfectly."
Unfortunately, Widner Saint Cyr recently suffered an injury that kept him from playing. But he and Christiano Francois hope to play together someday on the senior national team in Haiti.
More than twenty years ago, Michael Mitchell and Dave Stahl played together on the soccer team at Chico State University in Northern California. After graduation, Mr. Mitchell joined the Peace Corps and went to Niger. Dave Stahl says his friend took soccer balls with him to the West African country.
"Soccer is the international language of the world. I mean, people play soccer everywhere and they get a lot of joy out of it. And that brings communities together."
After two years in Niger, Michael Mitchell returned to Chico State for his master's degree in physical education. Mr. Stahl helped him structure his thesis. His thesis was that soccer could improve the lives of African children. The paper was called "Project Play Africa."
It took more than fifteen years for the two friends to make their dream come true. But finally, with thirty thousand dollars in donations, they ordered two thousand soccer balls from China. Dave Stahl says that was the easy part.
"It was very difficult to get the balls to Niger because there's not a lot of commerce going into Niger and it's expensive to ship the balls. You have import duties and, you know, where are the balls going to be when they get there, etcetera, etcetera.”
Once they solved those problems, they went to Niger, rented a car and drove into the countryside. They gave away soccer balls and air pumps in settlements, villages and schools. Dave Stahl remembers one of the stops.
"We're driving down the road and we're going by this little village and we see about a dozen kids trying to play soccer and they were literally kicking around a sock filled with sand. So we stopped and got out and they were very excited. We started kicking the ball around and we started kicking it with the kids. And then we got our translator to communicate that, 'Hey, we're going to leave you guys this soccer ball.' And when the kid had the ball in his hand, all the kids just started jumping up and down and screaming. We have that on tape!"
In twenty-ten, with help from the Peace Corps, volunteers from Project Play Africa went to Benin. But on that trip, they realized that their efforts were not measurable or sustainable.
Dave Stahl helps children pump their soccer balls in Niger
So in twenty-eleven, they decided to focus on Libore, a small, rural community near Niamy, the capital of Niger. The volunteers came with information, equipment and a plan to work with local clubs and schools to create a soccer league.
Dave Stahl says volunteers returned to Libore this year and were extremely pleased to see what the local people had done with the idea.
"They embraced the idea and staffed all the positions and created the league and played the games and were hungry to expand it. It engaged boys and girls, which is very unusual for a Muslim country -- to know that the parents were letting their girls participate in an activity because usually the girls are doing housework, fetching water and wood and so on. We found we had the support of both the tribal and the political leaders of Libore. We saw that the program created pride in the village and the school."
Dave Stahl says he especially enjoyed watching the boys and girls championship games.
"We drive up and they had literally a thousand to two thousand people there -- both adults and children -- to watch these kids play soccer. They were probably aged between six and twelve years old. So the field is totally lined with spectators and then they had, like, a lean-to tent at the center of the field where the mayor and the chief and the dignitaries were sitting. And it was incredible to watch."
Dave Stahl says Project Play Africa's greatest challenge is to find a soccer ball that is not only low cost but also easy to transport. It must also be strong enough to survive for more than a few weeks on Niger's rocky playing fields. Once they find the right ball, he says, Project Play Africa wants to bring soccer balls to all of West Africa.