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This blog is part of i-ACT Expedition 20. Read more about the entire trip here.

This morning was the last Darfur United Soccer Academy (DUSA) Coaches Training session. It’s hard to believe the week has already come to an end. After our training, we asked the coaches to meet us at the Youth Center where we had our formal ceremony to hand out the DUSA Coaching Certificates and announce our four selections. Picking the coaches was not an easy task, as I am confident all of our candidates would make wonderful DUSA coaches and leaders in their communities. Especially after completing the five days of soccer training and learning the philosophies which embody the Academy, all of the men and women appear more confident than before. They have been taught the importance of creating a safe and peaceful space for the children to play football, and even more importantly, understand that being a leader off the pitch is just as vital as leading on the pitch.

They were all very nervous during the announcement ceremony. Anxiously anticipating their names to be called, each candidate seem genuinely happy for their peers. When it came time to announce the last female coach, each woman was deafening silent. As I said her name, Asma rose to her feet, both hands in the air, gasped out a scream and started jumping for joy. After a couple jumps, Asma rushed towards me for a heartfelt hug. It is not typically customary to hug in this culture, so this type of gesture was surprising to say the least. Asma’s raw emotion during this moment illustrates how excited these men and women are ready for this opportunity. Of course, DUSA is a platform to build life, social and health skills for Darfuri youth, as well as provide a space for the healing of victims of socio-emotional trauma. Our hope is for this Academy to affect people of all ages and genders. It seems as though it already has.

Tomorrow the pilot Darfur United Soccer Academy for Camp Touloum will launch, consisting of 15 girls and 15 boys ages 6-13. Our coaches are more than ready for the job, and the children are more than ready for their Academy.

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