Refugees United Soccer Academy
A place for refugee girls and boys to learn about teamwork, leadership, and peacebuilding, all while improving soccer skills.
The Refugees United Soccer Academy is a place for refugee girls and boys ages 6 to 13 to learn about teamwork, leadership, and peacebuilding, all while improving soccer skills.
It offers children, whose families have been displaced by extreme violence, a safe space to play, heal, and be empowered. iACT trains and employs two male and two female refugees to serve as the leaders and coaches of each Academy. The Academy also serves as a way to connect refugee children and youth with soccer players and clubs across the U.S. and globally.
Refugees United Soccer Academy – Darfur (RUSA – Darfur) was born from the Darfur United Men’s Team after their first appearance in the Viva World Football Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2012.
Building on the need for programs that address trauma and promote education, health, peacebuilding, and social integration, iACT works directly with refugees to develop and implement the Academy. For six days a week, four coaches—two refugee men and two refugee women—lead children in mindfulness exercises, warm-ups, skills and drills activities, scrimmages, and team-building exercises. Ultimately, their goal is to provide a safe place for refugee children to learn soccer, lead, play, grow, and be children.
RUSA-Darfur Academies in Chad
academies in all camps by 2017
Darfuri RUSA Coaches
current capacity at the academies
"Football, to me, is everything. Football is support. Football is health. It means relationships and it means peace.” -- Coach Suliman
Coach Souliman is 32 years old, and was the captain of the original 2012 Darfur United Men's Team (DU) that traveled to Iraq. He returned to his camp with pride, energy, and the determination to share the skills he had learned through DU with the children of his camp. As DU Head Coach Mark Hodson describes, Souliman was "born to lead. He is a lion-hearted individual who bleeds the green and white [colors of DU]. He will never let you down on or off the field, and will give his all to represent for his people….We need more Soulimans in this world!"
Souliman works alongside coaches Issag, Sadiya, and Thouhilia to manage the program on and off the field. The coaches make sure to visit the schools regularly and communicate with teachers. They’re even present in players’ home-lives. When it comes to managing major conflicts and fighting, the group has created its own response. Following any major incident, the coaches head home with the kids after practice to sit with them and their parents to explain that the behavior is not okay.
Coach Souliman says, “I feel so good, and know that I will become a leader in Goz Amer. I hope to travel to other camps one day and help train new coaches."
When working in refugee education, it’s important to remember that each refugee child arrives with unique experiences and needs, all of which require distinct responses.
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Central African Republic
Refugees United Soccer Academy – Central African Republic (RUSA – Central African Republic) opened in June 2016 in refugee site Gado. Gado is barely twenty kilometers away from the border between Cameroon and Central African Republic (CAR).
The site is on the Cameroon side, with the refugees coming from CAR. Most of them arrived in 2014, escaping brutal mass violence that continues to tear apart their small nation. iACT employs four coaches, two men and two women, all of whom are refugees. The coaches, Stanislas, Gislaine, Rachidatou, and Haron, are role models for the players and create spaces that are peaceful and joyous for the children of Gado.
children ages 6-13 are registered
of Academy players are girls
sites make up refugee camp Gado
CAR refugees live in Gado
Sponsor Play, Give Hope
A donation of just $10 sponsors one year of play for one refugee boy or girl, and helps i-ACT train and employ more coaches, deliver more soccer equipment, organize in-camp tournaments.
Ghislaine is 23 years old and lives with and cares for her young daughter and her little brother. She has been living in Gado for one year and seven months. In Bangui, before the conflict, she was just beginning her last year of technical high school. In Gado, she has worked for CARE and Plan International, visiting homes to raise awareness among parents of the importance of education. What Ghislaine was most excited to tell us about was her love of sports. She previously practiced karate and formed a women’s soccer team. She is passionate about children and has organized games with girls living in the local host community.
Ghilslaine caught iACT's attention with her soccer skills, but it was her natural leadership qualities and focus that made her stand out during as the right choice for a RUSA coach. Ghilslaine dynamic young woman who can help mobilize others in her community.