IMG_9828As 2014 came to an end, one of the most memorable experiences was launching the first ever Darfur United Soccer Academy (DUSA) in camp Djabal last October. The combination of nerves and excitement going into my last trip to Chad was overwhelming. I had little experience traveling to impoverished areas of the world. I had never been to Africa. And I had never worked with survivors of genocide.

When traveling to refugee camps, we are also required to pack all of our own food for the duration of the trip, which may seem like a simple task, but planning out all the food you’re predicting you may eat over a three week span is actually quite difficult (for me at least). I failed miserably at the food element. I ran out of food with 5 days left of our trip, and went into full on panic mode. Luckily, my (now) good pal Sara-Christine was on the trip as well. She had much more experience with these types of trips. She packed not only enough food but more sustainable food and kindly shared with me until we departed home. We also lucked out in finding Chinese peanut butter and Chadian bread the last few days, which was a total life-saver.

I helped in writing a rough curriculum for the launch of DUSA last year, however going into the upcoming trip in January I am much more prepared for the elements, emotional distress, and the overall process of launching one of our i-ACT Academies. The DUSA coaching training program is more organized, with clear goals and expectations for the coaches themselves and for the participants of the academy. Our mission heading into this next trip is even more precise and our objectives are well-defined. My nerves are more suppressed this time, as my past experiences have prepared me for what to expect and how to cope with the emotional distress of working in a refugee camp. Listening and observing friends recall their tragic stories is truly an assault on all senses of the body, and no amount of trips can ever truly prepare us for what we see. I can’t imagine walking a mile in their shoes.

2015 already looks like a bright and bold year for DUSA, and once again, I am completely humbled and honored to be a part of this incredible journey.

More to come soon…

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