I made a new buddy. His name is Anu. For the four days of visiting refugee site Gado, he was next to me just about every minute. We went this way and that way, as we explored the camp and prepared for the training and selection of the new Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA) coaches. If I turned around, there was Anu.

We had conversations—he spoke French, I spoke English, and we somehow understood each other. He watched every warm-up, every drill, and every game that the candidates for coaches went through, deeply interested. Whenever I looked his way, he would look at me. We would shake our heads in approval (of something), and we’d continue with our own “thing.”

During a long break from the try-outs, I asked Anu if he would give us a tour of this refugee site that is his home. He immediately agreed and got to walking, knowing we would follow. He first took us to his school, which is out for the Summer. It is an old set of buildings, half falling apart. Anu walked into his classroom and spread his arms as if to say, “This is where I learn”—or at least, that was my interpretation.

He then took us to his home. We met his mother, his aunt, and his siblings—a five-year-old girl and a six-month-old baby boy. Good looking family. He then showed me the inside of his home, which was very clean and organized.

Anu then got going again. At Gado, you cannot go in straight lines very far. You have to wind your way around homes, laundry lines, and gardens. Anu knows all the twists and turns. By coincidence (I think) he took us by the home of some of the coach candidates. It was a very fortunate coincidence because one of them was our top male prospect, Ibrahim, so we had a chance to see his home and have a conversation. We left even more convinced that he was a great choice to be a RUSA coach. Thank you, Anu!

Anu came to the ceremony during which we announced the coaches and was able to see the celebrations as we announced the four coaches. He then stayed for the more than four hours of “classroom” training for the new coaches. He sat quietly, watching us talk about the challenging job the coaches have ahead of them.

The coaches are so excited to start with their new responsibilities. I told them that it’s all about Anu and the other children of their camps. They will be role models for these kids and will create spaces that are peaceful and joyous. The new RUSA coaches will play a part in shaping the future leaders for their people. I have a feeling Anu will be one of those leaders.
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