Israeli Soccer Coaches Bring Joy to African Refugees

‘Israel has brought a little light to more than 3,000 children, refugees traumatized by a brutal civil war in their homeland’

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A delegation of Israeli soccer coaches recently arrived at a remote refugee camp in Cameroon that is home to thousands of refugee children who fled ongoing violence in the Central African Republic.

Equipped with soccer balls and nets, the coaches tried to bring a little joy to the camp’s children, who are suffering from severe trauma as a result of the brutal war ravaging their country.

The visit was the initiative of the Israeli Embassy in Cameroon, in cooperation with Israeli and UN human rights groups.

The Israeli delegation conducted a series of training sessions and activities for the local children in an attempt to encourage the development of positive self-image and strengthen the refugees’ sense of self-efficiency.

Over the course of two weeks, the coaches and embassy staff used soccer as a tool to bring the local refugee population closer together, while also providing a means of relieving stress and resolving conflict.

Israeli Ambassador to Cameroon, Nadav Cohen, said: "The idea for the project was born during my first visit to the refugee camp, when aid workers told us that the refugees wanted a television so that they could see the World Cup in Brazil.

“With the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with Cameroon’s Ministry of Sport and various UN agencies, Israel has managed to bring a little light into the lives of more than 3,000 children, refugees traumatized by a brutal civil war in their homeland.”

One of the coaches, Tomer Marsland, works closely with the Israeli NGO “Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises,” which helped facilitate the mission. Marsland said that such cooperation between Israeli NGOs and Israel’s embassies around the world “allows us to reach a unique community, export our extensive knowledge to those who need us and represent Israel with honor.”

PHOTO courtesy of the Israeli Embassy in Cameroon

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