Juniors students Julia Nuttall-Smith and Liam Cook traveled to Östersund, Sweden over the summer to assist resettled refugees participating in the Darfur United Men’s Soccer Team.
The two were the first high school interns to travel to Sweden for the Darfur United soccer camp, which happens each year. They traveled with iACT, an international organization dedicated towards developing programs and education campaigns to better the humanitarian refugee response.
“iACT and Darfur United have shown me the importance of a personal connection, the importance of being a family,” Nuttall-Smith said. “I already miss Sweden and cannot wait to see this family grow and alter the status quo of humanitarian aid.”
In Sweden, Nuttall-Smith and Cook assisted iACT in hosting a soccer training camp for the Darfur United team, which consisted of 20? people. The camp lasted ten days and was followed by three games, each filled with teams made up of refugees from nations such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
“I love that the Darfur refugees get to play in the games because it brings hope to their family and friends they had to leave behind in eastern Chad,” Nuttall-Smith said.
Nuttall-Smith and Cook also interacted in my activities such as helping the training camp set up, assisting with health and medical work and helping the resettled refugees with ensuring that their visas were up to date. They also interviewed each of the refugees on the team to find out about their stories.
“In Sweden, each day was a new adventure,” Cook said. “From the moment I departed from the JFK international terminal to the moment I finally found my way back home, I was mesmerized at what I saw, what I learned, and what I felt with each new experience.”
Since the trip, Nuttall-Smith and Cook have been working on trip logistics and brainstorming ideas on how to better their efforts for next year. In addition, both took large amounts of video footage and are currently working on developing a promotional video for Darfur United as well as a documentary on the trip.
“I’m really excited to see how the documentary is going to turn out,” Cook said. “The videos really captured our experience throughout the trip.”
To further the cause, Nuttall-Smith started Mustangs4Change her sophomore year, a club at Costa dedicated to supporting iACT’s efforts. The club has raised thousands of dollars for refugees in Darfur, organized events and contributed to petitions towards the humanitarian refugee movement.
“I love being apart of Mustangs4Change because it really allows me to make an impact on critical issues occurring in the world,” Cook said. “The fact that we have been able to not only fundraise money but also interact with some of the refugees themselves is amazing to me.”
Nuttall-Smith and Cook hope to further efforts through their club this coming fall by hosting Camp Darfur, iACT’s educational exhibit, on the Costa and local middle school campuses.
“As a club, we hope to provide a successful program for other schools across the nation to model after,” Nuttall-Smith said.” “We also hope to bring genocide awareness to our youth so future generations can shape our world.”