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:
Co-create emotionally and physically safe environments for children and youth to exercise their right to play, while experiencing joy alongside GOALS;
Witness what is happening in Artsakh and share the humanity of the people impacted by conflict;
Adapt a framework for supporting coaches in their leadership and professional development, which focuses on programming in Artsakh and the border region;
Hire a gender-balanced coaching team to support children from Artsakh, and support the recruitment of children to attend the football Academy; and
Design and implement a three-part coach training program for coaches in Artsakh and the border region.
Since I started as a volunteer with iACT in 2007, we have partnered with the Armenian community on genocide awareness and prevention activities, including the recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. At Camp Darfur, an exhibit that traveled to hundreds of schools across the United States, we always proudly included an Armenian tent to share the truth of what the Armenian people have experienced. Gabriel Stauring, iACT’s Founder and Chief of Vision and Strategy, is a previous Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity finalist; a prize awarded on behalf of Armenian genocide survivors.
Gabriel perfectly describes how I feel, as well, “We have deep appreciation for the opportunity that the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative provides 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.”
You can be part of this project! Your ACTion is not only welcomed, but necessary to ensure all children can be part of a more peaceful world.
How you can get involved:
Donate! Help us raise the remaining 60% needed for the project. You can donate now or organize a fundraiser in your community.
Share the project on your social media and in your community! We need your support to sustain several coaches’ salaries so that as many children as possible can participate in the Artsakh Academies!