I've had the pleasure to have volunteered with Soccer Without Borders since 2008, and I know first hand what an incredible difference they make in the lives of newcomer and refugee youth throughout the USA. I started volunteering as a summer camp soccer coach with SWB in Oakland, CA. The Soccer Without Borders soccer camp was a highlight both of my summers and those of the many incredible children I got to know and coach. In Oakland the camps brought together students who had found their way to California from all parts of the world, We had students from Myanmar, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, to name just a few. While their love for soccer brought these children together, SWB's camp was about so much more than soccer. We had activities that helped the kids build community and trust across cultures and languages. Inside the comfortable and safe space of a soccer field, the students also learned more English, found new friends, and discussed how to live a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally, in their city and neighborhoods. I've watched as SWB has grown and been able to provide more and more opportunities for support in summer and throughout the year. For the fortunate refugees and newcomers who have access to SWB, the organization now provides robust support to them and their families year round.My favorite moments with SWB always include seeing kids from totally different parts of the world, who share a history of turbulence, upheaval, and trauma, bonding together, laughing, and finding joy in their new home country. This doesn't happen by accident. SWB is so conscientious about how they train their staff and volunteers to run great youth programs and also how to be refugee/newcomer/trauma sensitive. I've also had the chance to see what an impact SWB can make for students over many years. I rejoice when I see that students who I coached almost 10 years ago, who could hardly speak a word of English and felt very shy, are now coaches themselves - helping to promote a program that helped them.Soccer Without Borders is an incredible nonprofit that is doing amazing work with some of the most vulnerable youth in our country.
I was connected to Soccer Without Borders in 2011. Since then I have had the chance to visit their Nicaragua and Boston programs and work with a variety of coaches, program staff, kids, and families. The program supports communities in a holistic way that provides opportunities to matter and get involved, along with the additional social services that are vital to the success of newcomer families and youth, along with girls (who so rarely get the chance to play sports, especially abroad).
I take students from the University of Idaho to Nicaragua each summer to study global health and community development. We spend an afternoon and evening with Soccer Without Borders in Granada. Each time I am so impressed with how capable and committed the volunteers are and how much they are doing to enhance the life of Nicaraguan girls. They are terrific role models for my students and provide fresh insight into the rich rewards that come from committing yourself to service.