i-ACT recently returned from our 21st trip (i-ACT21) to visit Darfur refugee camps in eastern Chad and we have some heartening and humbling updates for you!
While checking in on the Darfur United Soccer Academy in camp Djabal, we had many conversations with the four coaches leading the Academy: Ramadan, Leila, Adam, and Habiba. What was heartening was the feedback we received from them. They reported that more and more children continue to sign up for DUSA! They also each expressed how proud they are to be coaches and to be ambassadors for soccer in their community. Coach Adam said that he was especially proud to see his players getting better, and told us how he is now known and respected in the camp and in the local community as a coach.
We also got to see the coaches and players in action! The coaches were organized in separating the boys and girls and setting up the warm up, drills, and scrimmages. The coaches themselves took part in each activity, giving demonstrations and direction, with positivity each step of the way. They needed no help or guidance from us. It was everything we hoped for.
In the mornings before the Academy, we held some informal training sessions with the coaches as well as visited the homes and families of Ramadan and Habiba. We provided more curriculum that was designed by Darfur United Coach Ambassador Rachael Rapinoe, and gave training on mindful breathing exercises and techniques to create a peaceful environment for the players. The coaches agreed this was a great way to start each Academy session in order to establish peace and calm for each player. At one point, we all sat in Habiba’s hut, eyes closed, meditating and learning to focus on our breath. It was a surreal moment with the sound of cows and donkeys just feet away!
The Darfur United Soccer Academy was initially designed to be a safe place for refugee children to learn soccer and develop their social-emotional health and peace-building skills. While the Academy is achieving these objectives, another aspect of the Academy that I found on this trip to be equally as important, urgent, and impactful is the opportunity for women to serve as leaders. In conversations with coaches Habiba and Leila, I was told how they wish for the freedom to make choices in life. Habiba specifically told me, “I know we [women] have rights, too.” She repeated this to me several times, a reflection of her increased confidence and voice! The coaches also described how women’s lives are decided for them by their fathers and husbands, that girls in their community are forced to marry as young as 10, 12, and 15 years old, and that a woman doesn’t choose when to have children or how many to have. However, because Habiba and Leila are employed coaches of DUSA, they have been given the time and freedom to choose to delay marriage and children.
This fall, following the rainy season in Chad, we will continue to support the training and employment of female coaches. We hope to offer DUSA to more camps, thereby offering the opportunity for more women to have choices and to be leaders, and the opportunities for more girls to choose their right to play and to dream of someday being coaches and leaders too.
Luckily, we have our annual One Strong Kick benefit coming up! This will be an evening that offers you a choice: the choice to support Darfur United Soccer Academy and our efforts to give more young refugee women a space and place to be leaders and advocates for the rights of girls and women.
Saturday May 30, 2015 // 6pm
An Evening to Celebrate and Support Darfuri Refugee Soccer Programs in Hermosa Beach, CA
For information and tickets visit our OSK Event Page
Not able to make it? You can still support our $10 Kicks and Hope campaign for a chance to win a 16 x 20 canvas print and VIP Swag Bag.