Commonly known as ‘Ellis Island of the South’ or ‘the most diverse square mile in America’, the small southern US town of Clarkston has welcomed 40,000 refugees over a period of more than 25 years. Whereas in the past they tended to come from Bhutan, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and Vietnam, most current refugees are Syrian or Congolese. Whatever the country of origin, migrating to another country is often a difficult process, notably on account of cultural and linguistic differences. Sport, however, is a universal language that can act as a bridge between different communities: in our case, football provides the scenario for youth to both adapt and become part of the local community fiber. It also gives people an opportunity to integrate: having fun and making new friends at the same time. Nevertheless, the high prices charged by sports clubs, the high level of poverty and the lack of sports facilities in Clarkston are hindering the personal development and social integration of child refugees. The anti-immigration policies directed at Syrian refugees in recent years in the state of Georgia are exacerbating the problem, resulting in a lack of investment in sport and health in refugee communities.
Soccer in the Streets is a sport for development organisation that supports inner city children and young people living in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Our programs combine football sessions and youth development activities to create positive social change for underserved children. It gives them the chance to play football regardless of their ethnic origin, socio-economic status or religion. By adopting a holistic approach, the project is not limited to football on the pitch. It goes further than that, in particular by enabling personal development and education, with participants taking part in small-group sessions, hands-on activities or youth leadership councils. The project provides out-of-school activities that combine football with basic life skills. Older children are also invited to take part in workshops as part of the ‘Life Works’ programme. These sessions prepare teenage refugees for the world of work by helping them acquire employability skills. The project also plans to broaden its activities to include and have a positive impact on girls by helping them to boost their self-confidence and ensure their rights are respected.
- To facilitate the integration of young refugees and their families living in Clarkston
- To promote a healthy lifestyle among children in precarious situations
- To have a positive impact on the town of Clarkston by overcoming prejudice towards refugees
- To increase the employability of young refugees living in Clarkston
- To increase the participation of girls in the project’s activities
- To provide opportunities so program participants can broaden their horizon by seeking to enter higher education institutions (Universities, Technical Colleges)
- To develop community leaders
- To connect youth with appropriate partners providing key services
- To work with a total of 200 youth, including 80 girls
- To graduate 20 participants from our employability program
- To train/certify 10 coaches or 20 referees from refugee communities and provide them with an income