Story by: Karen Romero, Salt Lake City Chapter, Volunteer
On October 2012, the Utah Region partnered with Break-Thru Soccer FC to host a tournament for refugee youth. Break-Thru Soccer is a program which establishes free soccer teams in high refugee populated areas across the Salt Lake valley. Due to the close interactions that this Break-Thru already had with the refugee community, we were able to partner and support an event to assist the Restoring Family Links program in our outreach efforts. Our Restoring Family Links program wanted to find a better way to interact, outreach, and establish rapport with the refugee communities in the area.
For many refugee families, soccer may be one of the few familiar things which they are able to identify with, in this new country. Therefore, we felt that this could be a successful event. We were able to involve various community partners in the tournament. We reached out to our local Major League Soccer Team, Real Salt Lake, who very generously donated their mascot’s time, Leo the Lion, to attend the event, Leo was a huge hit with the kids.
Also, we reached out to Latinos in Action, a leadership and volunteer organization for Latino/a youth in Utah, which provided youth to create “cheer teams”. These teams sponsored a team and would cheer them on and provide support throughout their games. We had 8 teams participate and over 200 attendees both from the refugee community and the community at large.
Overall, we heard great comments from the community, as it was for the majority of the participant’s, their first soccer tournament. We made great connections with the refugee community and community partners as well as established a better relationship with both of these. A few weeks later I attended a meeting at one of the community centers and one kid came up to me and said “hey, I know you! You’re the Red Cross lady, from the soccer tournament”.