LA-based NGO to establish soccer academies along Armenia/Artsakh border
The Aurora for Artsakh program has awarded iACT funding to implement refugee football academies for the children of Artsakh
LOS ANGELES, CA, USA | June 28, 2021 — Hermosa Beach-based iACT, in partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS), will establish several soccer academies to support the social and emotional wellbeing of children and youth affected by war in Artsakh, also known as Nagorno Karabakh, a self-declared country backed by the Armenian government. After a six-week war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, some who fled the violence have returned to Nagorno Karabakh while others remain near the border. Focused on supporting and uplifting the situation in Artsakh, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s Aurora for Artsakh program will be funding 50% of this new project. iACT is committed to securing the remaining amount needed to train, hire, and support coaches to provide a safe place for displaced youth to play, learn, and heal.
The Aurora for Artsakh program was established through the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative — an organization that addresses compelling humanitarian issues through direct service to those in need. Gabriel Stauring, Founder and Chief of Vision and Strategy at iACT, was a finalist for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an award that recognizes and supports an individual who risks their own life to help victims of a mass atrocity. Stauring has launched 11 Refugees United Soccer Academies that have supported more than 24,000 youth living in refugee camps in Chad, Cameroon, and Tanzania. GOALS has established soccer leagues for girls in over eight regions in Armenia, helping to bridge the gender gap of female participation in sports. Together they will launch GOALS Academy powered by the Refugees United Soccer Academy.
Stauring says, “We feel deep gratitude for the opportunity that the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is providing for iACT to work with individuals and communities directly affected by the recent war in Artsakh. Football, together with a mindful-peace curriculum, can create magical spaces where children can heal and thrive. This partnership with Aurora and GOALS is hope and gratitude in action.”
Teny Avakian, CEO of GOALS, shares this message, “With each community we impact, with each team we create, we take one step closer to providing a possible alternate future for #everygirl.”
Both GOALS and iACT are UEFA Foundation for Children grantees and will use their extensive experience in leadership, peacebuilding, and training to hire coaches and create soccer academies. Each week, the coaches will lead children in mindfulness exercises, warm-ups, skills and drills activities, scrimmages, and team-building exercises. Ultimately, their goal is to provide a safe place for war-affected children to learn soccer, lead, play, grow, and be children.
During the first stage of the partnership, iACT and GOALS will focus on hiring between three and six paid coaches in Artsakh and its border regions to help facilitate the soccer academies. iACT team members will travel to the Armenia/Artsakh border on July 15th to establish the program.
Based in Los Angeles, iACT is a groundbreaking international action organization with a mission to inspire a more mindful humanitarian system. Our vision is a world where the dignity, humanity, and agency of conflict-affected people are recognized, affirmed, and supported. iACT was established in 2009 in response to the Darfur crisis and since then has grown into a team of experts providing humanitarian action that disrupts the traditional, top-down aid and service model and is grounded in refugee-led solutions from ideation to implementation. iACT facilitates refugee-led education, sports, and human rights programs in camps around the world. For more information visit: www.iact.ngo
Girls of Armenian Leadership Soccer (GOALS) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization operating in Armenia since 2016. It is the only sports organization in Armenia promoting gender equality through sports—primarily in rural Armenia—and is dedicated to empowering girls and young women across Armenia by promoting health, life and leadership skills through their participation in an all-female soccer league. GOALS’ Theory of Change is rooted in the philosophy that sport can be used as a vehicle for transforming society and expanding the possibilities of its participants. The Theory of Change can be summarized into three core activities: (1) creating safe spaces for young women and children to participate in sport; (2) educating communities and challenging existing stereotypes through sport for social impact curriculum; and, (3) fostering strong partnerships with local institutions to lay a sustainable framework for our activities. GOALS provides the infrastructure, coaches, equipment and resources to create girls’ soccer leagues in rural communities across Armenia. Currently, over 800 girls from 80 communities participate in the organization’s activities. https://www.goalsarmenia.org/
Press and Partnership inquiries:
Katie-Jay Scott | iACT Executive Director
Fr. Vazken Movsesian, from In His Shoes, interviewed Katie-Jay and Gabriel about their shared journey as anti-genocide activists and about iACT’s work, from its inception to our recent trip to Armenia to work with communities affected by the 2020 war in Artsakh.
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I had the good fortune to recently spend 10 days or so in Armenia with Gabriel and Katie-Jay launching a soccer academy for coaches and kids affected by the war in Artsakh. My role was to bring the mindfulness piece of the puzzle and to share some simple practices and...