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Refugee Camp Walking, Soccer Ball Dribbling Zen

By Gabriel / April, 24, 2015

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This blog was originally posted as part of i-ACT21.

Dribbling a ball across a refugee camp is a very different experience than just plain walking across it. It connects you with the camp and its inhabitants in special and unique way.

Today, in what must have been 115 degrees heat, we walked from one corner of the camp to the other, and back and forth and in between this home to 30,000 people. All along, I brought with me a Darfur United soccer ball, trying to keep it at my feet, at the same time that I looked around and did what we needed to do.

I had to walk through and around donkeys, goats, carts pulled by horses (and lots of animal poo), boys, girls, women, and men. Children would yell, asking for the ball, women would laugh, and men would smile but still do their long and cordial greeting, starting with, “Assalamu alaikum.”

I kicked the ball over to boys, and they would look at me carefully, wondering if there was a catch, or if they could just kick it back. They kicked it back gently, but then much harder the second time around. Just about every single boy I passed by looked at the ball, then at my face, then back at the ball. They all smiled.

Men walking next to me received the pass and very cool and collected would do a couple of taps and then pass it back to me or another man walking with them. Everything changed when I turned on the camera. These men would try their best moves, and often the ball ended up flying past an unsuspecting person walking the other way. Some of them need a little practice. I can’t wait to launch the Darfur United Soccer Academy in this camp!

These refugees are experiencing real hardship. But there is magic in a soccer ball. It puts you in the moment and connects you with others, no matter how far away from home you are.

Peace,
Gabriel

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