More than a youth soccer academy. A space for kicks and hope for children affected by war and conflict.
DID YOU KNOW: Sports programming for children and youth affected by war and conflict is regularly under-prioritized, and in fact often seen as unimportant. Yet when we sit and listen to families, what we hear is that they actually find it extremely important. Parents want opportunities for their children to play.
iACT is serious about soccer, and serious about creating safe and joyful spaces for play. The Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA) blends skills, drills, and team-building exercises with a coaching pedagogy designed to support the social and emotional wellbeing of girls and boys ages 6 to 13. This community-led program is rooted in trauma-informed care, strength-based coaching, equality, inclusion, and a uniting passion for soccer.
Created alongside experienced coaches and child development experts, RUSA’s Kicks & Hope curriculum is adaptable to a variety of contexts and emphasizes the development of soccer skills while integrating a focus on the social-emotional development of children. The academy gives children the opportunity to build life skills, make friends, gain a sense of belonging, improve as a soccer player, and experience joyful play five days a week.
With an emphasis on gender equality, iACT trains two men and two women from the community to lead each academy. As a part of their role, they work to foster relationships with families and other community members, strengthening their ties with the program. RUSA also serves as a way to connect refugee and conflict-affected children and youth with soccer players and clubs in the US and across the globe.
More than just soccer, a movement for hope.
DID YOU KNOW: In 2012, Darfur United — an all-refugee soccer team — was launched as a joint project between the Darfuri refugee community in eastern Chad and iACT. The formation of the team and its participation in a global tournament gave Darfuri refugees a world stage on which to represent their people — and all refugees — and bring attention to some of the most vulnerable and forgotten populations.
Darfur United is more than just soccer. It is a movement for hope. The team has not only been a vehicle for global awareness, it has fostered unity and cohesion among Darfuri peoples dispersed between the camps and served as a microphone to amplify voices within the community. In 2018, the message from voices within the community was clear: they wanted a women’s team. And so, the Darfur United Women’s Team was formed.
Darfur United Men’s Soccer Team
In 2012, the team scored the Darfur community’s first international goal at the Viva World Cup in Iraqi-Kurdistan. Then, the 2014 CONIFA World Football Cup in Sweden gave a stage for the players to share their story and advocate for themselves, as the tournament reached 300 million people across 61 countries. Today, the team is composed of Darfuri players who live around the world — including Chad, Sweden, and the US — and is awaiting the opportunity to play in another tournament.
Darfur United Women’s Soccer Team
In 2018, iACT listened to Darfuri refugee women and their aspirations to play, compete, and pave the way for a generation of girls in their community, and supported them in forming the first-ever Darfur United Women’s Team. The team is made up of female players from eight refugee camps in eastern Chad. Still in its early stages, the women’s team is just beginning to build and is looking for supporters to help it grow.
A community-led preschool program that nurtures the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children affected by war and conflict.
DID YOU KNOW: The earliest years of life are crucial to children’s social, emotional, and physical development. And yet, less than 2% of international aid is dedicated to early childhood education.
iACT fills this gap with an innovative play-based preschool program for children ages 3 to 5 called Little Ripples, built on the idea that evidence-based and trauma-informed educational programs can be accessible and adaptable to any context.
Little Ripples is designed to be community-led, does not require expensive technology, and can be taught by teachers who themselves have little or no literacy or teaching experience. Through the Little Ripples training, teachers learn the skills necessary to support young learners and have the opportunity to adapt the curriculum and program to their culture and context. The ultimate goal is for children to have safe and joyful spaces to play and learn.
As a part of the adaptability of the program, the preschools — called Ponds — can be held in child-friendly spaces, schools, community centers, or homes. Additionally, each location offers a daily meal to every student, prepared and provided by women hired from the community. The positive impact of these Ponds ripples out into the community, creating a source of hope for families.
An empathy-based leadership training designed for conflict-affected men and women who seek to strengthen their capacity and confidence.
DID YOU KNOW: In humanitarian crises, individuals and communities often lack power over resources and decisions that affect their daily lives. This inequality springs from a spectrum of causes, including: displacement and legal status, economic constraints, and the loss of agency within the top-down humanitarian structure. This is especially true for women.
Lead with Empathy (LwE) is a leadership training developed in partnership with Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad as a solution to address inequalities in the decision-making system in their community. The curriculum is rooted in empathy and nonviolent communication and is designed to provide information, tools, and guidance for individual and collective leadership development.
Each unit begins with a mindfulness exercise that serves to create a peaceful atmosphere and ensure all participants feel mentally and emotionally prepared and present. The 30-unit curriculum begins with understanding empathy and nonviolent communication before defining various leadership styles and moving into: goal setting, facilitation skills, human rights, community organizing, empowerment, and peacebuilding. The curriculum culminates with a group-based action project that guides participants in identifying a problem and designing a solution in their community.
The objectives of Lead with Empathy include:
Increasing the skills of all participants to lead activities, identify challenges, and implement solutions.
Increasing the capacity of participants to support each other in their own power.
Strengthening the foundation of interconnectedness and empathy between participants.
Supporting women in particular as they become leaders in their work, families, and communities.