Abilene Football Camp releases soccer balls designed by refugees around the world

From Kaku:

A summer soccer camp, which began as a way to engage refugee children in Abilene, has launched an action plan aimed at sharing soccer balls with children around the world. Campers get a buy-one-give-one soccer ball design.

Dozens of young people between the ages of 9 and 17 navigate through different stations on the vibrant green football field at Abilene Christian University. They take turns defending the goal, dribbling and playing away from the volunteer coaches.

Most of the campers come from sub-Saharan Africa. Few are recent arrivals from Afghanistan. 15-year-old David Masha says that when he was 10, his family came to Abilene from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Football was one of the things he had in Congo that helped move him to his new home, “I was playing in school, even back home, in Africa, so I knew most things. I just got used to people and everyone.”

Some campers rush to the water break to return to the field and take turns challenging the goalkeeper.

Play4More Camp relies on volunteers from the ACU’s women’s soccer team to organize the activities. Eileen Goss says she sees an improvement in the skill back at camp, but the goal is to have fun and give the kids a sense of unity in their new home, “We just have the refugees come in and enjoy playing football. A lot of them don’t speak the same language, but we just have the common ground of football that brings us together. And that’s just a fun thing to do for the kids and then for us as a team.”

15-year-old Rachel Sanyo has been coming to the camp since arriving from Uganda four years ago, “It brings back the happy memories I had at home with all my friends. It is something I enjoy doing, because I am in Africa.”

Football camp started a few years ago when Jason Morris reached out to the local office of the International Rescue Committee.

The camp.  JPG

Play4More campers experiment with different color schemes while creating their football vision.

Morris is Dean of the ACU Honorary College and directs the University’s Leadership and Service Program. He says shortly after first camp that he came up with the idea of ​​taking the kids to the ACU Maker’s lab to allow them to explore their artistic sides by creating their own soccer balls, not just for these kids to enjoy, but to share around the world, “with some of our acquaintances, no Especially in sub-Saharan Africa, there aren’t enough soccer balls to go around. Villages only have one ball to use. Sometimes those balls are made with plastic bags found in their community.”

It took Play4More two years to put all the pieces together, says Morris. “It was last summer where they first designed the balls in the factory lab, and then from that point on we took those designs and worked with them to the specifications the manufacturers needed to produce those designs on the actual balls.”

Morris and his collaborators chose three designs and manufacturers created prototypes. The Rachel Sanyo ball features a red, yellow and black design. “I painted my flag colors, like where I come from. So I try to represent where I am from in that ball, and she has a lot of memories,” Sanyo said.

The first shipment of camper shaped soccer balls has arrived on Amazon for distribution. Jason Morris has already lent some balls to an organization serving Afghan refugees in San Diego. He has formed two organizations to start distributing soccer balls abroad when sales are high here. One of them is the Children of Rwanda, a group that provides education, health care and other services to children in the capital of Rwanda. The other is the Zambia Medical Mission, which plans to send balls with the medical teams that travel to Zambia every year, “They go with their teams to rural areas in many different villages and feel that this will be a great tool to benefit from their work in providing medical care throughout rural Zambia. “.

The final part of Morris’ plan is to allocate 10% of college scholarship earnings, first to local refugee children who want to study at a college or technical school, and eventually hopefully to refugee children everywhere.

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