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Hello Camp Djabal

Editor’s Note: This post, written by Rachael Rapinoe originally appeared on

Wow this camp has a very different feeling from the previous refugee camp, Goz Amer. The moment we arrived yesterday we were all greeted with massive smiles, laughs and genuine happiness for our arrival. They have been expecting us, and you could definitely feel it in their welcoming. Gabriel knows almost everyone in camp Djabal and has created personal relationships throughout the community. I feel more comfortable in this camp as we walk through the streets, visit people’s homes and talk with camp officials. Djabal is more spread out, creating smaller communities throughout the camp and a larger sense of autonomy. The people seem a little less confined and free to roam about more peacefully. Overall, I can feel a stronger sense of hope in this camp than the previous.

Our mission yesterday was to meet with everyone we know and spread the word about the Darfur United Soccer Academy. We met with person after person, home after home, conveying the message of importance this Academy will have on their community. Not only are we trying to give hundreds of children a safe, joyful and inspirational place to play soccer, but we are promoting respect and equality for all. Men and women will be able to coach at the DU Academy, which will instill leadership roles in women for all to see. Girls and boys are encouraged to join this academy and develop not only as players, but human beings as well. This empowerment will impact the masses, and I feel so lucky to be a part of this effect.

Today was our first day of the coaches training. We are doing trainings in the mornings and afternoons, taking all the potential candidates through a well developed DU Academy curriculum. It is so exciting watching the male and female coaches absorb the material and quickly responding to all of it. Some of them have never gone through structured drills like this, so it’s very new for the majority. But they’re like sponges.

We have some great candidates to choose from, it’s actually going to be very hard choosing only four. As I watched them today out on the field working hard and encouraging each other, I felt so inspired. I was standing in the middle of a refugee camp, coaching men and women who have experienced unthinkable crimes and yet they’re all still wanting to strive for greatness. Their passion and determination is incredible.

Another day at the office tomorrow, the soccer pitch, and I’m already excited. Until next time…

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