VANCOUVER, BC – The MLS WORKS Community MVP contest is designed to recognize “an individual who goes above and beyond to make a difference in their local community.”
That couldn’t describe William “Bill” Yoachim any better.
Yoachim, Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP nominee, has dedicated his life to advocating on behalf of Aboriginal children and youth and working to improve life conditions for future generations.
Case in point: Yoachim is the Executive Director of Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services and an elected member of Chief and Council for Snuneymuxw First Nation.
He’s also the co-founder and a key organizer of the annual Hope and Health movement, an event put on in partnership with Whitecaps FC that utilizes soccer to inspire hope and health across VI Coast Salish communities and the community at large.
Yoachim said he’s been overwhelmed, honoured, and humbled by the support he’s received since being named Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP.
And while he’s hoping to earn enough votes to win the MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize, which includes a $10,000 donation to a charity of his choice, Yoachim said the awareness that’s being raised is a victory in itself.
“Voting is key but so are those conversations on the Hope and Health initiative,” Yoachim told whitecapsfc.com. “The ultimate outcome at the end of the day is for these beautiful children is to overcome their adversity and to create hope and create health, one child at a time.”
Yoachim knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity. As a young child, he was sexually abused by his soccer coach.
“This doesn’t reflect on the game of soccer … it just happened to be a soccer coach,” Yoachim said. “But I feel like I was cheated from the beautiful game and obviously cheated many years of my childhood and youth because of this horrific experience.”
For years, Yoachim said he carried the “shame” of being sexually abused each and every day. It affected every aspect of his life. He tried to hide it, but Yoachim just wasn’t himself.
“I didn’t know how to love, I didn’t know how to care, I didn’t know how to respect,” he said. “I lived a life of anger and recklessness. It’s fortunate that I’m here today. Getting rid of that demon, disclosing that demon, finding myself and finding wellness gave me the strength and drive to do the job that I do today.”
Yoachim said his “medicine” was really opening up to and leaning on his First Nations community. Doing that was a “key factor” in his healing process. From there, Yoachim came forward to the RCMP, which eventually led to the prosecution and conviction of the individual responsible.
“Bill was able to face his fears and demons and persevere to realize his own personal greatness,” said Deana Gill, a co-founder of Hope and Health. “And that’s really the message he wants to get out. Everyone faces their own demons and their own challenges and to be able to have the courage to be vulnerable and overcome them … that’s how you’ll get on your unique path of greatness.”
Yoachim said opening up about his past allowed him to find his true self. He went on to earn an arts degree from Vancouver Island University and a social work degree from the University of Victoria, before starting his career in social work.
The Hope and Health initiative was a natural extension of Yoachim’s passion for soccer and “desire to bring the community together in an event that fosters hope and health, over tragedy and despair, despite many challenges faced by Indigenous people,” according to Yoachim’s Community MVP profile.
The event came to fruition nearly four years ago after a conversation between Yoachim, Gill, and her husband Ed Georgica – Whitecaps FC’s head equipment, logistic & facilities manager. Since then, it has grown into an annual initiative that brings together over 400 children and youth from the central Vancouver Island member Nations for two days of inspirational presentations, performances, and fun soccer clinics.
“Sport is a key tool in creating self-worth, esteem, respect, social skills, how to interact, and so on,” Yoachim said. “Not everyone is going to be a future Whitecap, but nevertheless it’s going to give them a lot of great tools to deal with any adversity.”
Whitecaps FC had several representatives at Hope and Health 2014, which took place earlier this month, including head coach Carl Robinson, club ambassador Carl Valentine, and several players.
“It’s been a perfect fit,” Yoachim said. “It’s the experience a child should have from the game. Not the experience I had. I really just wanted to start giving back and making a difference.”
And that’s exactly what he’s done.