TACOMA, Washington — iACT is an organization from Los Angeles, California that aims to support refugees from displacement across the world. They do so through different services such as education and sports. iACT partnered with Darfur United and created a Darfur United soccer team that consisted of only refugees. The impact that they produced on the lives and communities in refugee camps was more than what they could have imagined.
The Darfur Refugee Crisis
The Darfur refugee crisis in Sudan has persisted as an extreme humanitarian cataclysm since 2003. The political and social unrest has led to more than 8 million people fleeing the country. The violence began when Darfuri men overthrew 20,000 Chadians from their own residence to either burn land or steal property.
Founder of Darfur United, Gabriel Stauring began his work with the refugees on the Chad-Sudan border simply “because it’s personal … They are friends. [He] must act.” Ever since the birth of Darfur United in 2012 and the partnership with iACT, both organizations have impacted thousands of refugees’ lives through soccer.
Creating the Soccer Team
The Darfur United soccer team created the men’s side of the club first. The team originally consisted of players from twelve different refugee camps that are located across Eastern Chad. The team has now succeeded on an international stage. They have played at the Viva World Cup in Iraqi-Kurdistan and CONIFA World Football Cup in Sweden. At the CONIFA World Cup in 2014, the team was given more press. Thus, being able to share their story of how they started from nearly nothing to competing at an elite soccer level. Just recently, the team announced they have left the CONIFA soccer association to create its own association named the World Unity Football Alliance.
More recently, a women’s Darfur United soccer team was created. This team consists of players from eight different refugee camps, and the team is still growing. Though the country and community did not believe it necessary to have a female team, the women felt it necessary. They managed to organize themselves and create an all-female soccer team for the club.
iACT also promotes different forms of activism through awareness initiatives that inform U.S. citizens about the history of refugee crises. One of iACT’s activism projects is Camp Darfur. Camp Darfur is a moving event that teaches people about the current genocide in Darfur. Camp Darfur has visited multiple different states across the U.S. to share the project. The project sets up different tents visitors can enter to learn about the history of different genocides. With this project, they hope to inspire people to take action with the organization.
Response to COVID -19
iACT created a Refugee COVID-19 Response Fund for different refugee camps. Of this fund, 100% of it goes to direct aid in the form of sanitary products and salaries for refugee camp leaders. The goal of the fund was $20,000 and that goal has been met and surpassed. Alexandra Nuttall-Smith is the director of health and wellness of iACT and athletic trainer for Darfur United. She has kept the players informed about COVID-19. Additionally, with the help of Joshua Scott, the team’s medical advisor, she comprised a list of resources for the players.
Through these soccer teams, and accomplishments, both organizations have created a platform that more openly discusses the severity of global refugee crises and what the victims of these events have to endure. The Darfur United Soccer team now mainly consists of players that have left the refugee camps but still have family or friends that live there. This soccer club has gone beyond the field to show that the members of these refugee communities are not alone in their fight, back to a state of normalcy, safety and comfort.
– Josie Collier