Welcoming New Coaches to the Team in Armenia
We are so excited to introduce you to all of our amazing soccer coaches in Armenia! In partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) and the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, we hired four new soccer coaches on our trip in April to join our three original coaches hired in July 2021. This team of coaches is dedicated to creating safe and fun spaces for children to play and experience joy through sports. We can’t wait to watch the program thrive under their leadership!
Goris & Vya
Anush is a talented soccer player and an energetic coach! She plays on a professional team in Armenia, and, like coach Mariam, splits her time between two towns. As a result, she hosts an Academy in Goris and one in Vayk. She feels proud to offer a safe and fun space for children in each community and hopes to inspire more girls to play competitively.
Sergey is based in the small village of Tegh, not far from Goris and the border between Armenia and Artsakh. He joined iACT in July 2021 following the first training, and has been leading an Academy in his community ever since! From the feedback he’s been receiving from the community, it is evident he is doing a great job. He said that since starting the Academy, he has been receiving calls from parents asking him if their child can attend on the weekend, and his players ask him if the Academy can have longer hours.
Nelli was displaced from Artsakh by the war and now resides in Goris. Serving as an Academy coach is her only job, and she is proud to be a part of iACT. Nelli is resilient and tenacious. She has had challenges in finding space for the Academy during the cold winter months, but has found solutions and adapted to working in different spaces in Goris, whether in small park fields, school gyms, or large soccer fields.
Gyumri & Vayk
Mariam’s family didn’t allow her to play soccer growing up. It wasn’t until a local male soccer coach advocated for her that her family ultimately supported her dream. She is now one of the star players of the Armenian Women’s National Soccer Team. Mariam brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the soccer field and to iACT! She will be hosting the Academy in two villages: Gyumri, her hometown, and Vayk, where she trains with the national women’s team three days a week. No program like the Academy exists for children in either community.
Gevorg was a part of the first iACT soccer academy training in Armenia and we were so excited to have him back. He lives in Artsakh, but is not from there. He fought in the war in 2020 in the contested Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh region, surviving a bullet wound to his shoulder, and felt compelled to stay to help the people there through the power of soccer. Gevorg has started a league for girls and is dedicated to connecting Artsakh to the world through soccer. He will now be hosting an iACT soccer academy for boys and girls in Artsakh to help them recover from war and feel joy and hope through play.
Paylak works at a sports school in Vayk and brings many years of management experience to the Academy program. Paylak shared that while he has had experience managing and coaching sports programs, he has never received training or support on the importance of, and how to create, joyful spaces for children through soccer. He has a commanding yet calm and gentle presence. He’ll be partnering with veteran iACT soccer coach Anush, and new coach Mariam, when they’re all together in Vayk each week.
Gergun is based in the village of Akner, which is a few kilometers north of Goris where our iACT soccer academy coaches Anush and Nelli are based. Gergun is a talented player with a kind and calm presence. He comes from a long line of soccer players and is passionate about using the sport for the development of children. He recently expressed to our team, “iACT is giving me wings to the work that I love.”
Where our coaches are running academies:
Stepping into the role of interim executive director, for me, is an act of love for my friends. It is a way to honor our friendship, and to continue in our shared unwavering determination to shape a humanitarian system where the dignity, humanity, and agency of conflict-affected people are recognized, affirmed and supported.
Toward the end of January, iACT’s program associate Julia and I traveled to Chad to connect with our teammates living in the Darfuri refugee camps located in the eastern part of the country. We were there for a couple weeks, and the camps we stopped in were Am Nabak, Touloum, Iridimi, Djabal, and Goz Amer. We refer to this trip as “iACT33” because members of the iACT family, starting with our founder Gabriel Stauring, have now gone to Chad 33 times. Gabriel’s first trip was in 2005, and Katie-Jay later joined him for several visits.
By the afternoon, the consensus was encapsulated by what one humanitarian worker in Bangui told us, “This is CAR. It is always high risk.”