The best gifts we can give to one another is our time and support. Atlanta Program Officer for Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, Pharlone Toussaint, shares those gifts with her city and community every day through something that means a lot to her — sports.
A native of Atlanta, Toussaint has lived in many neighborhoods across the metro area spanning from Clayton County to Gwinnett County. “Coming from a poor family that immigrated from Haiti, we always had to move...” Toussaint expressed. “I didn’t get to do formal sports. I would find a new playground to go play in. That’s how I kept myself grounded through those tough times with my family.”
At the age of 15, Toussaint started her first nonprofit working with a group of her own peers, which helped her realize her passion for helping others and eventually led her to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
The Foundation started a few decades ago and covers eight regions around the world. The inspiration for the Foundation’s name came from a memorable Nelson Mandela quote: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”
Toussaint spends her days serving the community by working with philanthropists to provide grants and support communities across Atlanta. In addition, she supports the collaboration of other organizations who are actively helping to improve the lives of youth through the power of sport.
Still, there’s more to it for her. “We are in sports for social change, not just for the sake of sports,” Toussaint shared. “We love people who are physically active for the sake of it, but our work in sport is using it to address social injustice.”
The Foundation helps grantees speak to diverse brands, addressing how Black leaders in the non-profit space have been historically left out of these conversations, and educating them on how they can better support Black-led organizations and/or organizations that serve Black youth.
“My job is to form relationships with community members and get to the truth of what’s happening, and because of that we can give information to funders to help support Black-led organizations and Black youth in Atlanta,” Toussaint expressed.
This funding provides opportunities for youth to participate in sports programs that intentionally develop life skills and empower them to improve the communities where they live and play.
“When we do the work we do, we are playing together and sweating together. When people get together in this unique way, we are able to build trust,” Toussaint said with a smile. “Once we’ve built the trust, we can work through anything. If you have socio-economic problems or you have different life experiences, and someone gives you a soccer ball or a basketball, all those things are forgotten while you are playing.”
Toussaint continues to break the barriers every day as a Black woman in the sport for the development industry. She’s defied the odds and continues to be an example, a mentor and a leader. Her impact is being felt not only in her immediate community, but the city of Atlanta and across the world.
“Someone that comes from the family life I have, you wouldn’t normally see as a funder or a philanthropist,” Toussaint said with passion. “It means a lot to me to come back to a city where I grew up, and grew up poor, and be someone to give out money for a living. It's ironic, but I think it’s a testament to all the places you can go if you have the right kind of support, or the right coach, the right kind of dreams and if you dream big enough.”
As a child, Toussaint never would’ve imagined working with people around the world from London to South Africa and more. As a Black woman, her culture has inspired her in her work and her desire to stand up and help others.
“That is what Black women do. That’s what the Black community does. We do what’s unpopular, but it’s what needs to be done,” Toussaint said with heart and strength. “You look at how this city continues to lead in civil and human rights. I think the Black influence in our city makes that a thing. I try my best in the work I do and in the conversations I have. I’m not trying to do what’s popular or what’s easiest. I want to do what needs to be done so when the kids that come after me see what needs to be done, they feel empowered to do the unpopular thing.”