GSMP journalists share stories with the world

By May Chen, GSMP 2014 Alumna February 09, 2016

Each year, at the end of the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), those of us lucky enough to participate return home to inquisitive family and friends.

Many are intrigued by how we were able – or willing – to take a month from our lives, be away from our creature comforts, and dive headfirst into the unknown.

Others are drawn in by the unique concept of gathering people from all over the world, brought together by on common thread: women, sports, and the understated power of combining the two.

The one question that most, if not all of us are asked is: What went on – what could have gone on – during a one-month exchange that could turn strangers into… sisters?

Almost always, that is the hardest question to answer.

During GSMP 2014, one of my fellow alumnae said something powerful that I’ll never forget: perhaps we’ve each been alone on this crusade, this mission to empower women and girls through sport for too long. Now we’ve found the kindred souls whose hearts beat for the same vision and hope for the same dreams – even if our backgrounds couldn’t be more different.

In short, we’ve found our tribe.

So, we all return home refreshed, renewed and recharged, changed in a way that is reflected on our faces. But because the experience was so personal and heartfelt, sometimes we struggle to express adequately what we’ve just been through.

First we try the conventional way: telling people that GSMP is the month-long flagship program of the U.S. Department of State’s initiative to empower women and girls worldwide through sports. That it is a mentorship program that pairs you with top female executives at leading U.S. organizations in the sports sector. That each of us comes up with an “action plan” alongside our mentors, in the hopes that, as women whose lives have felt the impact of sport, we would be able to help others experience the same power.

But somewhere between the jargon and technical explanations, I suspect the true impact of our experience gets lost.

So here we are doing the alternative. We’re going to tell stories – stories of people, with people, by people. Specifically,“By Us, About Us”.

In this monthly series, there will be tales of those among us who pour their lives into refugee work. There will be stories of others who have uprooted their entire lives with wild abandonment, throwing themselves wholly into showing little girls not just how to bounce a ball, but how sport also prepares you for life. There will also be a spotlight on the unsung heroes behind the scenes, without whose love and dedication, the GSMP would have never come to fruition.

We are starting this series in tandem with National Girls And Women in Sports Day, which commemorated its 30th edition last week. Apt, perhaps, because we hope you’ll come to recognize through this series that the 66-strong (and soon to be more) in this tribe are made up of some of the most remarkable human beings around. They possess incredible courage and willpower to make a difference in the world and are on the frontline for girls and women every day.

Each year, another edition of GSMP comes to completion. On paper, the program ends and we all return to what we came from. But in reality, the fellowship goes on, deepens, and extends. It is our hope that this special thing that is now forever a part of our lives will also have a little way of making a difference in your life, too. Enjoy.

Learn more about Singaporean sports journalist and GSMP 2014 alumna May Chen in this podcast episode