You always hear people talking about trips that change their lives. To me, I never really understood what a “life-changing” trip would entail, not until I embarked to Sweden with the all-refugee Darfur United Men’s Team.
If I am going to be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect when I agreed to fly to Östersund, Sweden as an intern for iACT. Now, looking back at it, that may have been the greatest decision of my life. This iACT team, the Darfur United (DU) Players, and the not-so beautiful weather of Östersund have forever changed my perspective on life and every decision that I will make moving forward.
In Sweden, each day was a new adventure. From the moment I departed from the JFK international terminal to the moment I finally found my way back home, I was mesmerized at what I saw, what I learned, and what I felt with each new experience.
If I could go back to the first time I met and saw the DU players and tell my old self about the relationships I would make with them, each of their individual stories, the refugee camps that they had previously lived in, and how much they would mean to me at the end of the trip, I would think that I was lying. This is because every experience I had in Sweden was unlike anything I had ever imagined or had ever been a part of.
As an intern, I was asked to do tasks such as interviewing the DU players about themselves. These questions primarily consisted of asking the players about their favorite activities, what their current home situation included, and other random, personal facts such as what their favorite foods are and who their favorite soccer players are. When I was first given this task, I never thought that the answers that I would be given would so drastically change my perspective on how the world works.
Out of the all the questions, I had two that were by far my favorite. These questions were: “What does being on Darfur United mean to you?” and “Why do you personally want to be a part of this team?” For a vast majority of the Darfur United team members, the answer they gave was Darfur United means “everything.” To the players, being on Darfur United is a full embodiment of their country, their families still in the refugee camps, their friends, and everything that they stand for. The pride that the players carry with them when they walk out on the pitch is indescribable, and you know that each and every player will do everything they can to best represent Darfur United and what it stands for.
It’s kind of amazing actually; for individuals I did not share a common primary language with, these refugees were able to clearly communicate a message to me in a way no one else had ever done. Thank you to Darfur United and thank you to the iACT team. Because of you, I have experienced something I would never have thought possible. And, to top it all off, I now have eighteen new friends that I will alway look up to.
As an intern during the 2017 Darfur United Training Camp in Östersund, Sweden, I had the chance to ask the players what DU meant to them…but now after going on this trip, I feel like I need to answer that question myself. For me, Darfur United means hope. Hope for the current generations of children living in refugee camps, hope for the entire international community, and a hope that one day you and I, too, can begin to create change.