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  1. Opinion

Joe Henderson: Using soccer to make life better in the village where he was born

Jordan Peloubet, a Tampa Prep sophomore, is raising $130,000 to build a soccer complex in Tanzania.
Published Feb. 13

When Drew Peloubet agreed to join a church mission trip to an impoverished village in Tanzania, he thought ... well, let him tell it.

"I was really just thinking about my next vacation when this came up. My wife said we had been too self-indulgent, and it was time to do something to help other people. I figured I would go over there, spend 10 days building an outhouse, then pat myself on the back for my good deed and come back home," he said.

"But like I found out, if you really want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Those plans didn't call for a precocious 4-year boy waiting every morning for the bus carrying the workers to arrive at the village of Sokoni 1 in the Arusha District.

The boy followed Drew and his wife, Susan, just about everywhere. Even though he spoke no English, his face expressed full joy. He also started calling them mom and dad.

"He knew before we did," Drew said.

They found out the boy's real mother had died from malaria a year before. He was living with his grandmother. Something clicked inside.

"On the way home, Susan said it would be wonderful if we could adopt that boy," Drew said.

Drew was like, huh? What? Their kids were grown and ready for college. And now you want to bring a 4-year-old from another country into our lives?

Well, yeah.

That was in 2004. Today, the boy is part of their family and is named Jordan. The Peloubets did adopt him four years ago after Susan made annual visits to see him and laid the groundwork for the move. They first sent him to a boarding school and provided for other needs to prepare him for a new life.

But that's just one thread in a fantastic story of a boy who is wise beyond his years and a family that believes in service.

Jordan is now a sophomore at Tampa Prep, a galaxy that is light years away from the one-room hut where he started school back in Tanzania.

He believes he was blessed to be a blessing.

"All of this is the work of God," Jordan said. "It's faith in Him and a desire to please Him that motivated my parents to bring me into their family. My faith motivates me to serve the kids in Sokoni 1."

Soccer could be that vehicle. With the help of former Tampa Bay Rowdies player Farrukh Quraishi, he is attempting to raise about $130,000 to build a soccer complex back in his village.

"Kids there now usually play on the streets, or on a dirt field, or a dangerous place like a toxic dump," Quraishi said. "Jordan wants to leave a legacy for the community he left."

Quraishi serves on the board of lovefutbol.org, a non-profit that raises money to build soccer facilities in places of need around the globe. Jordan's old home qualifies.

Instead of a standard soccer ball, kids often use rags tied up in a plastic bag. Instead of fancy shoes, they might wear flip-flops or go barefoot.

"We wake in the morning, do our chores, and then we play soccer," Jordan said. "We're not going home to play X-box. We're not opening the fridge to get a cup of yogurt. We didn't even have a refrigerator."

Home in Tanzania was a mud hut with no running water. Food had to be rationed because there wasn't always enough, especially meat.

Jordan has seen both sides of life already. He knows his new life can help make things better for those friends back in his old home. That process started at Christmas when he asked family and friends who might consider giving him a present to donate to his cause instead.

Friends followed that example. He has other fundraisers planned, and he undoubtedly will get a lot of help along the way. The school also is supporting his effort.

"I want to make life better for the people over there," he said. "That is my dream."

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