MONTREAL -- Jeb Brovsky got married to the girl of his dreams, Caitlin, on December 8, 2012. But rather than spending their time buying furniture and writing thank you notes, less than three weeks after tying the knot, the newlyweds were traveling to Central America to help more than 600 orphaned children.
Through HANDS, a non-profit organization set up by Guatemalan alumni of the University of Notre Dame, Brovsky’s alma mater, Jeb and Caitlin spent eight days working at orphanages in Guatemala City and in provincial towns Jalapa and Comapa. They held two-day camps with the children, handing out soccer balls and t-shirts and discussing domestic violence and the treatment of women.
For his efforts, Brovsky has been named, for the second time in his young career, the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Month for March.
“The feedback was excellent, not only from the people who run the orphanages, but from the organizations we got to help with,” Brovsky told MLSsoccer.com. “They thought it was kind of a revolutionary idea that a man would speak to boys in Guatemala about violence against women, because they do battle with a lot of domestic violence down there.”
It wasn’t the first such trip for Brovsky, who also founded an nonprofit called Peace Pandemic while at Notre Dame, devoted to stopping violence against women and empowering girls and boys worldwide through soccer. In the offseason between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he wen to India with his message of peace and empowerment, again using the medium of soccer to spread the word.
But this time, the timing was peculiar, to say the least. Having just finished their honeymoon, the Brovskys ended up on an emotional rollercoaster in Central America.
“If anything, it made our first weeks of marriage even stronger,” Brovsky said. “You’re in a tough situation with stories you don’t hear every day. It adds perspective.”
Being at the orphanages inevitably brought up the idea of adoption and whether the newlyweds would contemplate the idea. The answer was an emphatic “yes.” After all, it turns out Brovsky himself was adopted.
“I wasn’t an orphan like these children,” he said. “I was very lucky to be adopted right at birth. Knowing how the adoption process goes and talking to my parents, times have changed, but it’s a pretty crazy process on both sides.
“Ever since I was old enough to understand, my parents told me that I was adopted. My sister was adopted as well, but she’s from a different [biological] mother. So we look a little different. She’s an Italian girl and every time we go out for lunch, everyone thinks we’re on a date. They’re always shocked to see me push the bill over to my older sister.”
Biological or adopted, Jeb and the children will have to learn how to handle more than a little globe-trotting, as their parents plan to keep organizing camps somewhere overseas every offseason. Moreover, Peace Pandemic is now looking to establish a volunteer program for high school or college students looking for community service opportunities abroad during the MLS season, potentially in Guatemala.
“The project’s in its adolescence,” Brovsky admitted, “but I have been in contact with some coaches in the Montreal and Ottawa who are very interested in sending a few of their academy kids abroad.
“We’d like to keep it sustainable, to keep helping these organizations and these orphanages that we've been blessed to be in contact with.”