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

Darfur United Soccer Academy (DUSA) Touloum is officially launched! This morning we conducted the pilot Academy consisting of about 15 boys and 15 girls, although we could have easily selected 100+ children for the first Academy. However, it is better to start small and build from the ground up, quality over quantity. There are no structured soccer programs for boys or girls in the refugee camps, so it is quite novel for them and needs to be implemented slowly. For that reason, our four DUSA coaches plus most of the volunteers who completed the Coaches Training, led a short two-hour session this morning. All of our coaches did a fantastic job. I was most impressed with their ability to keep all the children organized throughout every drill and transition, as well as their patience with the children. They all coached in unison, with each individual showing tremendous leadership amongst the mass of excited children surrounding the pitch. The coaches and volunteers are proud to be representing DUSA and stewarding the next generation of Darfuris in their community.

For the children, their smiles said it all this morning. After five days of anxiously watching me coach the older men and women, they were all more than ready to participate in the Academy. As I said before, there are no organized soccer programs for boys or girls in these camps, so they seemed a bit puzzled at first, but we could tell their blood was boiling with excitement. Every child had so much fun. Even during warm-ups they were all smiling from ear to ear. I can’t even begin to describe how adorable they were. Intently listening to their coaches and keenly focused on the next activity. The boys and girls played and laughed together for two hours. This morning, the Academy was a safe space for them to be children.

There are now two DU Academies in eastern Chad, which is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. However there are still many more thousands of children in need of the safety, peace, and leadership this program can instill. Step-by-step, hopefully every refugee camp will be impacted by DUSA.

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