Our History, Our Vision
Empowering the marginalized
Many years before we were fully incorporated in 2019, Go! International’s founder, Seth Hamilton, began working at the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, IL in January 2009 after going to language school in Guatemala in 2007 and in France in 2008 before traveling throughout Central America at the end of 2008 . What started as foreign language and martial arts programs would grow into taking a short-term trip with three East St. Louis language and martial arts students to South Africa with Horizon International to work with AIDS orphans. We taught tae kwon do, helped tear down walls, worked in a school garden, and much more. On this trip, Seth saw one student conversing with other tourists from around the globe in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Mandarin. He also saw how the local kids got more active when they saw the young man from East St. Louis, who was African American, leading the in the construction project.
He realized that many times when working with people in impoverished communities, the people themselves are seen as the problem or the cause of the problem. Not only are they the SOLUTION, but many times they are able to accomplish things well beyond our capabilities. Seth would go on to build an international network working with impoverished communities all over the world, working together to develop local leadership to change lives and communities.
This work would continue after moving to Nicaragua in 2012 with the NICE Foundation. The next three years would be spent building a self-sustaining network of combat sports athletes through competitions spanning from Brazil to Canada. The Guerreros de la Paz network sees athletes to this day collaborating to build their sports to help create businesses, jobs, and opportunities across the Western Hemisphere. Here he would found the first locally led project out of Managua, Nicaragua, Alfa y Omega MMA, which is still run by former youth student, Steven Tercero and his cousin, Seyling Rivera. They currently have over 50 students between kids and adults and have won multiple national and international titles in MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Sambo, and Wrestling.
Here, Seth and his wife, Ileana O’Neill, would work together in One by One International, leading programs with youth leadership development. They would also travel with Nicaraguans they worked with to all the other countries in Central America, and even to Japan with a young Nicaraguan man who spoke Japanese just like Ileana. There they would work with an orphanage for abandoned children and a number of churches serving the community in Osaka.
In 2015 Seth, Ileana, and their newborn son, Noah, would move back to the United States in East St. Louis after a stop though North Africa to work with a few organizations there. The language classes and now Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes resumed at the Christian Activity Center. Language and martial arts students would then begin traveling again, with 3 trips to Africa working with the Lionheart MMA Initiative, and 3 trips to Central America, building on our network, teaching seminars according to the gifts and talents of our students, whether it has been English or Korean classes, dance classes, martial arts, or event organization. Our students have also learned lessons in media marketing and entrepreneurship from our partners abroad while sharpening their language skills.
In raising money for our trips, we worked with East St. Louis entrepreneur, James Pirtle, who has run an ice cream store there for over 40 years. Our kids began selling chips and snacks to fund their travels and studies. This would develop into our entrepreneur classes that now see our kids running 3 small businesses: healthy snacks, jewelry with imports from countries to which they have traveled, and urban agriculture with their own farmers’ market. This program would catch the attention of the St. Louis Federal reserve who would partner with us to get their financial literacy to two community centers in East St. Louis as well as Scott Credit Union to provide banking services to our budding entrepreneurs.
We also expanded our language school in East St. Louis with help from the college volunteer organization, Partners in Est St. Louis, at Washington University. We now have native speakers teaching 60 children Spanish, French, Vietnamese, and Mandarin. We were also approached by the Quest Foundation to begin sending our top language students abroad for a semester to a year as foreign exchange students where they will hone their language skills and work in different communities.
Our partnerships have yielded high quality programs with low costs thanks to the many volunteers working with us around the world. We believe humanitarian work is most effective when it is most efficient. Costs go down when we seek out local partners and focus on developing leadership and human capital for the marginalized to find and manage the resources necessary to change their own communities. Through international collaboration and empowerment of the impoverished, the world can change for the better. There is much to do, and many places to go.