I am joining the team to help open the next Darfur United Soccer Academy, a program that trains and employs four coaches from the community – two male and two female – to run a comprehensive youth soccer academy. The academy is held six days a week and has the ability to reach up to 2,000 children. Katie-Jay, iACT’s Director of Operations, asked me to write a blog post before leaving to introduce myself, share what I’m most excited and nervous about, and perhaps what I’d like to take away from the trip. Seems simple enough, right? Not so much.
I’ve sat down to write this short piece probably five times and each time I shut down and get a snack. I start to think about the whole trip and all of the people I’m going to meet… How can I be most effective in what I set out to do? What takeaways will I have from a political and advocacy standpoint? Emotionally, how will I process and cope? Somehow it all feels too big for one page. Certainly too big for one blog post.
But then I have to remind myself that I’m doing what I usually do; I’m becoming a bit overwhelmed by the big picture. And admittedly, a little too cautious about what I want to say and how I want to say it. So I will use this fifth iteration to simply introduce myself and welcome all of you, the iACT community, to join me as I learn what it’s like to work side by side with the refugee community of Goz Amer.
A little bit about me: I’ve been playing soccer for as long as I can remember. It’s how I’ve always loved to spend my time; on and off the field with my teammates. But it wasn’t until I graduated from Linfield College and put a bow on my formal soccer career that I realized the true impact the game has had on my development. Soccer created a space for me to push myself and learn about myself; as a player, but also as a teammate and friend. It brought constant structure to my life. A safe space where I could play, laugh and grow, but also fail and be all the better for it.
It’s definitely the impact, the true reach of this sport that most excites me about launching the next DU academy. I’m proud to be joining a team that’s working tirelessly to create programs that not only invest in community leaders, but also address trauma, health, social inclusion, and peace-building through sport. So cool!!
Soccer is all fun, but it’s also a dynamic and powerful way to fill these ever-widening gaps in refugee assistance.
Before leaving, I was able to talk logistics with Rachael Rapinoe, Darfur United Coach Ambassador who launched the first and second Academies, and Sara-Christine, iACT’s Director of Programs. The conversation gave me a much better understanding of what my day to day routine will look like, and I’d say any nerves regarding the trip are fairly settled at this point. It was really helpful to get pointers from these two on everything from time management and communication to what types of shoes and food to pack. All things considered though, my takeaway was this: It will be hot, It will be fun and it will be well worth it.
I hope these blogs allow all of you to join me as I learn what it’s like to work (and play!) with the refugee community of Goz Amer.