Monica Enriquez has been part of Boy with a Ball in Costa Rica since she was seven years old. Her twenty-year journey as a leader in her community has been inspiring, long-lasting, and resulted in great impact throughout many communities in San Jose.
Monica’s family is originally from Granada, Nicaragua and recalls growing up in a beautiful home along with her parents and 3 other siblings. Her father traveled into the neighboring country of Costa Rica for work not knowing that eventually her family would move there permanently into a precario or squatters settlement called “El Triangulo”.
Looking back to her first home in Costa Rica, she recalls the muddy floors, the walls made up of wood panels, and the tin ceilings. Growing up, the biggest challenges for Monica while living in El Triangulo were the stereotypes and judgements that came from living in a precario. It was often littered with trash along the street, high drug use, and consistent gang violence. Many outsiders thought of the residents as “bad people” who did not have respect for their community. Even though she suffered a lot of judgment when she entered school, she was taught to hold on to hope and to work hard. This was a difficult goal, especially at that time where it was rare to hear of someone living in El Triangulo graduating high school.
Monica remembers her first encounter with members of Boy with a Ball, “What drew me in is how they would leave the comfort of their homes and come into a community like [mine] and take the time to get to know my family and my community in such a genuine way. It really captivated me as a little girl to continue to see them visit and be part of my family to this day.”
She mentions Anita Garcia, a Costa Rican Team Member at the time, being the first person to see the potential within her. Doña Anita encouraged her to develop as a leader within her community and the Boy with a Ball team in Costa Rica. After participating for years in BWAB’s tutoring center and girls' group, a dream developed in Monica's heart. Her own experience, alongside working with young people in her community helped her identify her dream of dedicating her life to helping hurting youth. Not only did Monica graduate high school; she graduated with a Bachelors in Special Education a few years later.
While attending college and stepping into a career as a teacher, Monica continued to grow within Boy With a Ball. Where she was once a young person in the tutoring center, she is now the Country Director for the Costa Rican Organization.
El Triangulo was eventually torn down. The community was significantly transformed, and many of the families moved out to their own homes throughout the city. The team has now turned into a neighboring, hurting precario called “Los Cuadros,” and Monica passionately fights for other young people in unlocking their potential and reaching their dreams, despite their circumstances.
“The BWAB team has been with me since I was a little girl and throughout my educational journey that helped me gain vision for my life and helped me reach my dreams. It has helped me [see myself as God sees me]. That is what we wish to [share with] the young people in the community now, to help them [find their own faith and purpose in their life]. To recognize this and not listen to what others say they are, especially coming from an area that is known for gang violence, promiscuity, and drugs. Instead, we get to see what God has in store for them in discovering their purpose and dreams in life,“ Monica explains.
When asked what Love Your City means to her, she describes it as “going out of one’s comfort zone and challenging ourselves to get to know and love our neighbor. Demonstrating the life that Jesus lived alongside one another. Giving up time in our week to build meaningful relationships with those living in our communities. It’s [about giving] all that other people have dedicated to me and what God has shown me to others”.