Darfur United Soccer Academy
i-ACT is working with Darfuri refugees in creating and implementing a comprehensive program called the Darfur United Soccer Academy. The Academy offers a safe place for children and youth to gather and participate in a healthy and enriching activity, trauma relief, and promote peace-building. The Academy not only provides the joy of play, but serves as a vehicle for peace and a way to connect the refugee participants with children and youth soccer players clubs across the U.S. and Europe.
There are approximately 75,000 children and youth living in the twelve camps that dot the border between Chad and Sudan. These camps have been in existence for 10 years, hosting a population that has and continues to experience trauma and loss, and a generation of children born into an environment that does allow for much hope.
The resources available to refugees are limited. Malnutrition is pervasive throughout the camps due to a decade of the same limited food rations. Programs deemed “nonessential” by the United Nations and other existing non-governmental organizations are not supported in the camps. Sports programs, physical activity and psychosocial support for children are considered “non essential”.
Play is recognized as one of the best forms of therapy. Offering the opportunity to participate in a positive, organized, and sustained activity can have a huge impact on individuals’ psychosocial development.
Play is not a luxury. Rather it’s a human right and an important investment in the present and future. It can bring entire communities together and inspire every individual. It can form social ties and networks, and promote ideals of peace. A game of soccer can teach children about tolerance and peace, and help develop skills like cooperation, leadership and teamwork. Furthermore, sport has been increasingly recognized by international community to be a low-cost and high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts. It has the unique ability to attract and mobilize people and communities.
Darfuris love soccer. With soccer balls rarely being available, the children make their own from rags, plastics, and string. They juggle, kick them back and forth, and organize games on the dirt, sand and rock fields. The refugees talk about their need and wish for better sports programs and education at every chance they get. They also express their great hope to connect with the outside world, beyond the camps that one refugee called, “an open air prison.”
Using the power of soccer, the Academy fills the gap between the challenge and the opportunity by offering refugees a safe place to play, move, heal, and be empowered. Through the Academy, men and women will become leaders in their community, children will have a safe place to gather and participate in a healthy and enriching activity, and youth will be able to further develop their skills and their chance of joining the Darfur United men and women’s teams.
Coach Profile: Leila
Learn about Leila, one of the first of two Darfur United Soccer Academy women coaches! There’s so much more I’d like to learn about Leila. I can’t wait for our next visit so we can get more insight into who she is, her family, her life in camp Djabal and her life before she became a refugee.
Featured Video: Coach Selection
See how the DU Academy project will be implemented in the twelve refugee camps.
See how the DU Academy project will begin in Camp Djabal.