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Communities Connect with Refugees Through the Power of Sports


Communities Connect with Refugees Through Power of Sports
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Communities Connect with Refugees Through Power of Sports

On a recent Saturday, children and adults from across the Washington area had fun kicking soccer balls on the field of a local high school.

Abdul Wahidi, whose family fled Afghanistan two years ago, was among them. He remembers that there were no rules at school, which had concerned his father most.

"There was the war problem and the school. There's two day school, two day not school, and my father decided to leave the country," Wahidi said.

Wahidi started playing soccer last year and has made many friends from Africa and other countries through the sports.

"Soccer makes me happy," he said.

Wahidi was participating in the first annual Refugee Community Soccer Day, which was organized by One Journey, in collaboration with other groups. One Journey is a grass roots movement in Washington, D.C., working to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis.

Throughout June, observed as World Refugee Awareness Month, activists are working to spotlight the stories of the nearly 69 million refugees and displaced people around the world. People from all walks of life take steps big and small to shed a positive light on refugees and help them connect with their new communities.

"Today, we have people, refugees from the refugee community, as well as just larger community members, all coming together and playing soccer together," Matt Tully, One Journey's coordinator, said. "The purpose of it all is to bring people together and to sort of show their common humanity over the love of soccer."

One of the partner groups is Life And Change Experienced thru Sports, or L.A.C.E.S. founder Seren Fryatt brought 40 refugee children.

"Soccer crosses cultural barriers. It brings people together, youth especially. Kids come from different cultures. If a soccer ball (is) in front of them, then it becomes a common language. They don't have to speak the same language, but yet they can play with one another," said Fryatt.

She said the event was a perfect example.

"What the goal of the Refugee Community Soccer Day was is to bring groups of people together who wouldn't normally connect and find a common bond," Fryatt added.

Mohammad Hashimi, another Afghan refugee attending the event, said playing soccer makes him happy and social.

"It is really fun to play, and it's really a way to speak to someone else in a different way," he said.

Nonprofit community group District Sports, and Washington's major league soccer team D.C. United, joined forces to help children and adults work on drills and play different games.

"We really welcome thee refugees to our community and the city that we call home," said D.C. United's spokesperson Felicia Chaplin.

Organizers say the inaugural gathering was a success, with 200 participants, and expect the connections they made to continue for years to come.

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