There are two distinct and critical refugee groups that we support: Young Adults and Youth.
Young Adults (18+)
There are thousands of young adult refugees in Utah who cannot and will not ever return to their home country. Many Americans assume that these refugees are “lucky” to be in the USA and to have their shot at the “American Dream,” and some may even believe that these refugees are a burden, or worse, a danger.
The reality is that while many refugees, if not all, are grateful for the relative safety and opportunity their new life in the USA gives them, this “dream” can often feel more like a “nightmare” for these reasons:
- The path to success is either unclear or closed to them;
- The pressures for financial support from family/friends back home can be enormous.
“Success” is often associated with wealth but at BRIDGES we define success as follows:
- Working consistently toward accomplishing clear, realistic goals for professional & educational achievement.
- Managing living expenses independent of government or community financial assistance. Self-reliance.
- Generously giving back to other refugees just starting the path to success.
- Getting connected with the Mainstream economy and business leaders.
BRIDGES is committed to providing the platform to help these refugees not just not be a burden to the local economy BUT to actually become productive, successful contributors to our society and economic infrastructure.
We integrate the above elements of success into the soccer program already in place as we raise the awareness in the mainstream community of the tremendous talent, soccer and otherwise, that exists within the refugee community. The players commit to certain actions directly related to the success factors above. In return, we provide exposure and connectivity to soccer programs, scouts, employers, and training companies to help them develop themselves and make the most of opportunities along their own path to success, and even pursue the “American Dream.”
The refugee youth are fantastic! They generally attend mainstream schools and play on mainstream soccer teams even while facing difficult challenges like harrassment/racism, learning a foreign language, differences in educational system, poverty, etc. When you meet these kids you see how much they just want to become a part of their new community, have fun, and achieve something. The promise in their eyes and smiles is touching and inspirational.
To turn this promise into actual results we do two things:
- Show them numerous examples of Young Adult Refugees (see above) who have embraced the educational and professional development opportunities along with, not instead of, the opportunities soccer presents for them here in the USA;
- Directly connect Refugee Youth with Mainstream Youth through soccer and keep them connected.
We start early to teach and guide these youth toward real results that they can produce in their own lives. As they see these results the incremental success builds on itself and gives them the best chance to break the cycle of poverty and inertia. It is our firm desire that these youth will eventually no longer think of themselves as or be called “refugees.” Rather, through the educational, professional, and, yes, athletic opportunities offered by Refugee Soccer these kids become strong, independent American leaders.
It all starts with the simple game of soccer. Our advice? PLAY with us.