One year after the iACT founders passed away, their legacy continues to grow
When a four-car crash claimed the lives of Gabriel Steering and Katie Joy Scott at the intersection of Manhattan Beach last November, it resonated with more than half the world.
Stauring and Scott, married for 11 years, have been working in refugee camps longer than that, bringing football — and hope — to more than 36,000 people in 20 countries. Sarah Kristen Dallen, who worked alongside them for much of that time, was determined not to let their life’s work die.
Dalin, who worked with iACT, the Los Angeles-based humanitarian nonprofit, Stauring and Scott, which Scott founded, for eight years before returning as interim CEO in January, is one of the former employees who returned to make sure the group’s mission continues. They left us with a new vision and mission, and a strong sense of values, culture and approach.
“We are now looking to the next 10 years. How do we continue to build a healthy, stable organization that can operate with impact, and is purposefully independent of any of its founders or leaders? We are working towards that now.”
Part of that new vision could soon bring iACT to immigrant communities in Mexico for the first time. Under the leadership of Stauring and Scott, who have made more than thirty trips to refugee camps in Chad, Tanzania, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, the work of iACT, which uses football to teach teamwork, respect, responsibility and pride, has largely focused on Africa. But in recent years, as the number of refugees in the world has doubled to more than 84 million, iACT’s reach has necessarily expanded to Greece and Armenia, people whose lives have suddenly and irreparably turned upside down.
“We can’t because what we’re really doing is creating an opportunity for people to stand up to their strength and get back on target,” Dallen said. These men and women have lost so much. They lost their homes, jobs, educational opportunities, community, and life as they knew it. But they have not lost all the experiences, talents they bring with them, and their own aspirations.
“So the idea is that we’re creating this bridge.”
The next bridge may be built in Mexico.
“We’ve been reaching out to a lot of organizations just to make sure first this is appropriate? How can I actually support children and youth on the move? And what we’ve heard from local organizations is yes, that’s needed,” Dalin said. “These families come, and they are here sometimes for days and weeks and months waiting, trying to figure out how to cross the border, or what to do next. They are showing whatever they can carry on their back. And it would be absolutely essential to have a safe and cheerful place. For kids to play every day, learn and meet while they are there.”
In African refugee camps, where many children have spent their entire lives, football academies have been set up to accommodate up to 2,000 children, training or playing for 90 minutes a day, five to six days a week. But in addition to football skills, the academies also teach children how to defend themselves.
“iACT has changed the behavior of my community,” said Omda Al-Fateh Younes Haroun, a refugee since 2003 and a program coordinator who oversees the group’s work in 11 camps in eastern Chad. He is one of the 188 coaches, educators, or support teams that support iACT financially.
He continued, “They asked us what we needed.” “If you want to change any society, don’t just focus on what you gave them. No, you should ask them what they want. We told them we need education, we need football and we need justice.”
iACT, which has four employees in Southern California and an annual budget of about $1 million, may have found a willing partner to expand into Mexico at Angel City FC, a first-year NWSL team with a social conscience. .
The team’s unique business model dictates that 10% of the value of each sponsorship goes directly to the community impact work, resulting in a combined donation of just over $1 million in 2022. Some of that money may soon find its way into iACT.
“We have very broad impact programs at this point. We have found a way in our story to make sure it is real for us,” said Catherine Davila, head of community at Angel City. “But obviously if it’s football, it’s easy for us to say, “That’s what we’re about.” So iACT makes a lot of sense on this front.
“But the most exciting thing is the way they go about it and the fact that they really integrate themselves into those communities to create something that is self-sustaining. This is the great piece. It’s not a one-off, it’s not ‘throwing some money on it and running a football clinic.’ It’s jobs, It’s training and that’s massive, especially in something like a refugee camp. People think it’s transient. And a lot of times it’s not.”
As the one-year anniversary of the November 23 crash, an accident that also claimed Christian Mendoza’s life, approaches, primary school principal Dalin said she feels sad and proud at the same time. Saddened by the passing of Stauring and Scott, but proud of their ability to continue and even expand the vision the two had when they first traveled to Africa together in 2008.
“It was a wonderful and beautiful testament to the legacy of Gabriel and KJ. The organization has been able to accomplish so much in the past 10 months because of the community they have built,” said Dalin, who said iACT’s work will reach 13,000 children at the United Refugee Academies of Football this year. “Because of their leadership and focus, our staff, refugee team members, board members, and volunteers are able and equipped to drive iACT forward and pursue the organization’s vision.
“So many people have been influenced by KJ and Gabriel. So many people from all walks of life have felt very connected to the mission. Getting to know them means feeling a kind of being seen, heard, loved and included. We have all come together to ensure it continues – not just to continue their legacy but really to continue the important work we believe in. him too.”
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