FASA’s McManus collects soccer equipment for Rwanda, Nicaragua

With so much suffering and sorrow plaguing the world today, it often seems obvious that single individuals can only have a token effect in improving the lives of faraway strangers.

But anyone tempted to underestimate the power of one should witness the astonishing results achieved by Spotsylvania, Va. teenager Sean McManus when he decided to collect soccer equipment for needy youth in Rwanda and Nicaragua for his Eagle Scout project.

A sophomore at Riverbend High School and central defender for the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association’s 94 Premiere side, McManus has grown up with a deep love for the game, and when he learned of a Charlotte, N.C.-based organization called Peace Passers, which links underprivileged communities in the developing world in need of basic soccer gear with potential equipment donors in the United States, he was inspired to take action.

“I was looking for soccer-related Eagle projects,” the 16-year-old explained to Potomac Soccer Wire. “To give the opportunity to play with nice equipment, that’s just great.”

He reached out to the FASA community and beyond, requesting donations of equipment and uniforms, and was soon inundated with literally hundreds of jerseys, balls, shoes and more, as a long list of coaches, teams and individuals contributed more than 1,000 pieces of gear in all.

Peace Passers connected him with two worthy 501(c)(3) non-profit groups in the developing world: Esther’s Aid, which works to improve the lives of children orphaned by the traumatic 1994 genocide and related conflicts in the central African nation of Rwanda, and the Pulsera Project, which fosters educational and developmental links between young people in Nicaragua and the United States.

Some of Sean’s collection was hand-delivered to the Rwandan capital of Kigali by Esther’s Aid founder Clare Effiong last month, while the majority will be carried in 26 large suitcases by student volunteers from the U.S. to Nicaraguan recipients in impoverished communities in the capital city of Managua, as well as a youth shelter on Ometepe Island, next month.

McManus and his family even prepared most of the items for transit themselves and drove them north to Pennsylvania to drop off at the Pulsera Project’s home base outside Philadelphia.

“We are especially grateful for everything you’ve done,” wrote Pulsera Project cofounder Chris Crane in a letter to McManus. “The thousands of dollars you have saved us by providing this much needed equipment at no cost will now allow us to use those funds instead to provide university and trade-school scholarships to deserving youths.”

Sean himself is quick to deflect praise towards those who donated gear to his project.

“I am very impressed with FASA and how generous the players, coaches, and the rest of the organization were when asked to donate. I exceeded all my goals and expectations by more than I had ever imagined possible,” he said. “I feel so proud to be a member of FASA and to be a part of this extraordinary effort.  Together we have made an impact on youth in other parts of the world.”