Refugees: United and Joyful
We were all tired. Amy and I traveled for four days to get to refugee camp Djabal from Los Angeles. Some of the men and women that arrived for the gathering of all Refugees United Soccer Academy coaches also traveled for four days. They traveled through unpaved, bumpy dirt roads. For us, it was mostly by air. Despite the physical and mental exhaustion, it was such a joy to see all the coaches in one place. I couldn’t verbalize how happy I was, but I think they saw and felt it—and I sensed the same from them.
Many did not know each other—but it somehow felt like one big family. These coaches represent eight of the twelve Darfuri refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border. Today, we all committed to doing everything necessary to bring the Academy to the other four camps. The coaches LOVED the idea of being able to take charge of this project—without any international iACT staff involvement. They were more than ready to select and train new coaches on their own and launch new Academies that will add thousands of boys and girls to the overall roster.
Over the next five days, we will be working with the coaches to fine-tune their skills and knowledge, and they will also have the opportunity to learn from each other and bond as leaders across camps. Even more exciting, the women coaches will take on the honor and responsibility of being a part of the first-ever Darfur United Women’s Team. They clapped and smiled with joy when we talked about this. I cannot imagine what is going through their heads tonight, as they think about representing their people and all refugee women on a football pitch.
Nothing is easy out here. It is life on the edge. To see all coaches gathered under a tree, laughing, hugging, and taking pictures was an indescribably special moment. Time paused and smiled.
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