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Joy and Soccer for the Children of Artsakh

In just a few weeks, I will be part of an iACT team departing Los Angeles International Airport for Yerevan, Armenia. Our bags will be filled with pop-up goals, training ladders, pinnies, soccer balls, and cones. The purpose is to launch soccer Academies in order to support the social and emotional wellbeing of children and youth affected by the war in Artsakh, also known as Nagorno Karabakh, a self-declared country backed by the Armenian government. 

With a matching grant from the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative covering 40% of the project, iACT will partner with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) to establish GOALS Academies, powered by iACT’s Refugees United Soccer Academy. We will hire three to six coaches and try to reach as many children and youth as possible. Americans are not currently allowed into Artsakh, so we will travel to the border to train and hire coaches. Our mindfulness and wellbeing team has also created a family toolkit with several videos to help support coaches, players, and their families as they use movement, breath, and the power within them to move forward. 

iACT’s commitment includes the following:

  1. Co-create emotionally and physically safe environments for children and youth to exercise their right to play, while experiencing joy alongside GOALS;

  2. Witness what is happening in Artsakh and share the humanity of the people impacted by conflict;

  3. Adapt a framework for supporting coaches in their leadership and professional development, which focuses on programming in Artsakh and the border region;

  4. Hire a gender-balanced coaching team to support children from Artsakh, and support the recruitment of children to attend the football Academy; and