Guest lecturer talks about value of language skill, helping others

Amanda Young

A Spanish professor from Southeastern University spoke Tuesday about his experience teaching Honduran children how to make good decisions in school and life through the game of soccer.

Jason Old, author of “Anthrotourist,” was invited to speak in Garrett Conference Center about his book, his organization and his experiences in “changing lives through soccer, Spanish and service.”

Old attributes his success to his ability to speak Spanish — a language he learned while he was in college — and his love for soccer.

“Language has opened my eyes to a whole new world,” he said. “Language has allowed me to do the two things I love more than anything: travel and learn about people.”

After working with many Spanish speakers and traveling to Honduras and seeing the conditions that the children were living in, Old said he wanted to find a unique way to change the path that their lives were on.

“There are people suffering around the world,” Old said. “How do I take the sport I love and a language that I speak to help other people?”

Old created an organization called CANFF — CAN Futbol Foundation, a nonprofit sport and development organization — as a way to promote public health, education and community development through soccer — something that the people in Latin countries enjoy.

“Soccer is my weapon. We’re using soccer as a way to promote other facets of personal development. It’s our weapon to helping,” Old said. “As far as sports go in the world, it’s a very positive medium and through that medium we can reach people and help people and that’s the goal for sports development.

“Literally, we started with some [soccer] gear,” he added. “Anything was a step up.”

CANFF has since grown to include 200 children, their families and a few volunteers.

“Our goal is to create upward mobility in these underprivileged communities,” Old said. “It’s not about me making money. It’s not about anybody who is part of this organization making money. It’s about giving these kids a normal life — normal in the sense of giving them a pair of cleats so they can play soccer.”

Old reminded his audience, however, that he believes he could not have made any of this possible without learning Spanish.

“I’m another Gringo. I’m not from Puerto Rico. I’m not from Argentina,” he said. “I’m a person just like you who didn’t like sitting in a language class. Trust me, I’m not special. This is all a culmination of that fact that I learned another language.”

Old also urged his audience to take on another language and to get involved. By doing so, he said, people can do great things.

“It doesn’t have to Spanish. It can be French, Italian, Mandarin, Swahili. It doesn’t matter,” Old said. “Really find who you are. Are you going to leave the world a better place than you found it?”

Columbus senior Megan Tan said that she found Old’s message to be very beneficial.

“He’s definitely a man of heart,” Tan said. “I think he was really trying to communicate to the students, more so than learning a language or telling everybody that they need to buy his stuff. It’s a universal concept that everyone needs to absorb.”