Encouragement in Resettlement

Encouragement In Resettlement

Pictured above, Lara, a participant in the L.A.C.E.S. Refugee Program, enjoys breakfast with her friends at the start of the Refugee Youth Adventure Camp

Around the world today, people are being forced to flee their homes due to numerous threats of danger. War, political unrest, and human rights violations are all responsible for the ongoing refugee crisis. Men and women, by no choice of their own, are having to pack up their families and everything they know in order to leave their homelands. Their motives in leaving? Survival. This experience can be traumatic for anyone but children are particularly at risk for suffering from the mental effects of forced relocation.

In the Unites States, political differences surrounding the issue often create a polarizing view with a lack of true awareness and empathy. At L.A.C.E.S., we are thankful for the different perspective we gain every day while working with refugee children who have been recently resettled into the U.S. Through our programming, we are able to interact personally with children from all over the world. The children we serve come from nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, and more.

We decided to help…

Pictured above, Lara poses for a photo with L.A.C.E.S. volunteer, Albatool.

When we launched our Refugee Program back in 2016, we had no idea what would come of it. Four years in, we have served hundreds of refugee children and have been greatly blessed because of it. Throughout this time, we have observed on a consistent basis that these kids are humble, kind, incredibly intelligent, and thoughtful. By conducting our numerous camps, mentorship curriculum, home visits and more, the impact we are able to have along with the relationships we are building are proving to be tremendously significant.

We love sharing with our donors, partners, and friends about the individual children we get to serve. When considering how much we are inspired by our refugee program participants in particular, Lara comes to mind. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, she and her family were doing well in her earliest days. Her father is a civil engineer and her mother has her doctorate degree in American History with China.

Forced to flee…

Pictured above, Lara takes a quick water break during the L.A.C.E.S. annual Refugee Youth Soccer Camp.

However, it wasn’t long into Lara’s childhood when she and her family were forced to flee Iraq, altogether. She shared with us that her family began receiving threats from strangers. We asked Lara what kinds of threats they were receiving and she told us that she was too young to remember. She says that her parents have several stories surrounding the threats but has no recollection of her own.

Lara mentioned that when she arrived in the United States for the first time, she had to have a serious surgery to correct a birth defect in her right leg. This added a lot to the stress to the resettlement process for both her and her family. Thankfully, Lara was able to receive the important medical care that she needed and made a full recovery.

A bright future ahead…

Today, Lara is an active member in the L.A.C.E.S. program. She loves her math classes and hopes to grow up to become a pediatrician one day. When we asked Lara why a pediatrician, she smiled and said that she really loves little kids. We know that her intelligence, enthusiasm towards life, and dedication to everything she’s involved in will make her a fantastic doctor.

Boys and girls like Lara have often experienced so much in their short lives. The global resettlement crisis happening around the world is concerning to say the least and the children involved are most affected. We are thankful that Lara is now growing up in a stable environment here in the United States. Through her involvement with our program, she receives mentorship, a constructive outlet to play, and community.

Pictured above, children enrolled in the L.A.C.E.S. program cheer for a photo at our annual Refugee Youth Soccer Camp

We need you!

At L.A.C.E.S. we work hard to provide a safe and constructive space for refugee children to come learn life lessons, soccer skills, and engage with their peers. We understand to our core that we are not simply offering a fun experience for these kids or an escape from boredom. Rather, we give them the opportunity to feel seen and welcomed. For many, the resettlement process can be brutal and the harsh affects that lie within the hearts and minds of those who go through it can be even more severe. Our organization is easing this struggle for those in our program and instilling in them the confidence they need to do it well.

We are passionate about our work, but we can’t do it without you! If would like to donate to our programs, click here! Your donation will go towards continuing our work with at-risk children here in the United States as well as those enrolled in our program in Liberia. We cherish every gift and are excited about partnering with you to make an important difference! At L.A.C.E.S., it’s more than a game!

One Lesson at a Time

One Lesson at a Time…

Pictured above, Mamie poses for a quick photo in Liberia

When asked to spell her name, she got flustered and looked down at the dirt defeated. While already 10 years old, Mamie had never been afforded the chance to attend school and therefore had never learned how to read or write. In fact, she hadn’t experienced a lot of things that 10-year-old girls normally had. She’d never known what it was like to be tucked into bed at night by her parents or gotten to spend a Christmas at home with her family.

Apart from these significant experiences, Mamie had also been neglected of some major developmental milestones. Lessons she’s needed to learn throughout her childhood were never taught to her. Without proper guidance and a stable support system, the future for Mamie was inevitably bleak. However, as a current L.A.C.E.S. program participant, everything that she had been robbed of throughout her life was slowly being returned to her, one lesson at a time.

Contagious Joy…

pictured above, Mamie shows our photographer how high she can jump

During a recent staff trip to Liberia, our communications coordinator had the chance to sit down with Mamie and hear about her life and all she had been through. She stuck out among the crowd because of her small frame and willingness to jump into any activity the older kids were involved in. She put on a fearless face when interacting with her peers and was quick to hold her own on the soccer pitch. A bit bashful when she began her interview with us, she eventually became comfortable enough to show her true personality and contagious joy.

 

Most of the details surrounding Mamie’s early childhood are unknown. Her inability to recall much about her younger days is a testament to the incredible instability she’s endured. When we met with her in Liberia, she was being cared for by her friend’s family and seemed appreciative for the chance to be off of the streets. At night, she shared a room with her friend and was able to receive one meal a day that consisted mainly of rice. While this situation is anywhere from ideal, we at L.A.C.E.S. are thankful for the support that she has outside of our work. We are encouraged by the local community members who have taken her in as their own.

Knowing her worth…

pictured above, Mamie and her team pose for a photo after she kicked a home run

“At L.A.C.E.S. I am learning so much,” Mamie told us. She shared that her favorite lesson so far in the program has been self-esteem. When asked what self-esteem meant, she confidently raised her head high and said “Self-esteem means I feel good about myself!” Mamie laughed as we all high-fived her on such a job well done. Knowing and believing good things about herself despite her difficult circumstances is no small accomplishment. Many young girls like her in Liberia are lacking this crucial knowledge regarding their own worth and suffer for it dearly as they get older.

Apart from the lessons she is learning, Mamie shared that she loves coming to L.A.C.E.S. and playing kickball. She’s fast and is always one of the most enthusiastic players on her team. During our time visiting Kakata, Mamie was able to kick a home run and was celebrated by all of her coaches and teammates. As far as her interests and dreams, she shared that she’s a big fan of the color purple and wants to become a school teacher one day! With her spunk, fearlessness, and kind spirit, we know that she would make for an incredible teacher for children in Liberia.

 

We need your help…

Pictured above, Mamie takes one last photo before her kickball game

At L.A.C.E.S., we work hard to provide a space that is constructive, fun, safe, and beneficial to the at-risk children we serve. By allowing vulnerable kids to participate in our active feeding program, competitive soccer league, research backed-mentorship curriculum, and more, their lives are being changed forever.

Currently, we are impacting the lives of hundreds of children every day! Throughout our 12 years of operation, we have been honored and privileged to help bring restorative healing to the lives of more than 1,500 refugees, Ebola orphans, former child soldiers, and street children.

While we as an organization are excited about the progress we are seeing in our work, we know that none of it would be possible without our faithful donors and supporters. Without the generosity of our monthly and one-time givers, nothing we’ve accomplished so far would be possible. If you would be willing to consider donating to help vulnerable children around the world, you can do so today, here!

Local Mentors for the Next Generation

Local Mentors for the Next Generation

 

Pictured above, L.A.C.E.S. Boys’ Head Coach, Allen, makes a child laugh when having their photograph taken in Liberia

A Long-term Strategy…

Throughout the past 12 years of conducting our work in Liberia, L.A.C.E.S. has been adamant about recruiting and hiring local community members to mentor and coach the children enrolled in our program. This decision was not made carelessly, but in fact remains one of the most vital and beneficial strategies we use in our efforts to create lasting change for at-risk youth. The reason? It’s simple. According to industry experts, “The importance of sourcing and managing local staff has become increasingly crucial to the success of nongovernmental organizations and consultancies working in development cooperation.” At L.A.C.E.S., we care deeply about the long-term effectiveness of our program and believe that enlisting local community members to lead our initiatives overseas is the only way to achieve this. To see holistic healing and transformation occur in the areas we work, local men and women have to be engaged and leading the efforts.

We are proud to acknowledge how blessed we’ve been to be gifted with such caring and incredible staff working for L.A.C.E.S. throughout the years. In over a decade of facilitating our program in different communities throughout Liberia, we’ve had the privilege of hiring more than 300 local staff members and have empowered them to serve as coaches, mentors, operations coordinators, and national directors. Today, L.A.C.E.S. has 24 staff through our operation in Kakata, Liberia. Among them is our boys’ head coach, Allen, who was gracious enough to share about his experience working with L.A.C.E.S.

Pictured above, Allen facilitates a L.A.C.E.S. boys’ soccer practice

From Death to Life…

Allen poses for a photograph during his recent interview with international L.A.C.E.S. staff

Allen has been serving with L.A.C.E.S. for the past three years in Kakata and has become one of the most influential and caring coaches we’ve had to date. During our recent staff interview with him, he became emotional as he described the brutal circumstances that street children in Liberia are up against. “Most of the children’s parents are not living. So they depend on us to coach. Liberia is a very hard country, so we are trying to be a substitute to them for life,” Allen explained. He went on to say that, “they are facing so much difficulties when it comes to peer pressures, care taking, etc. Only at L.A.C.E.S. do they feel good.” When discussing where Allen believes the L.A.C.E.S. children would be without our program, he went on to say, “most of the children would be dead by now.” While his perspective is sobering, it’s one that is needed to be heard by many of us who are unaware of the issues street children face.

Pictured above, Allen conducts a practice for the boys in the L.A.C.E.S. Program

We asked Allen what some of his favorite aspects of his job are as the boys’ head coach. He smiled and took his time trying to articulate the fulfillment he receives while working with our vulnerable children. He finally responded by saying, “The most rewarding part of this job, as a human, is seeing our kids living the life that God wants them to live and seeing them getting on track day by day. I am seeing that they are changing… leaving from death to life.” Allen went on to inform us that he has a son of his own named Joseph. Each day when Allen goes home, he’s greeted by Joseph and thinks of how his own son could have just as easily been orphaned or abandoned. This has given him a powerful perspective of our mission and encourages him to work diligently each day.

We asked Allen what he believes has been the biggest accomplishment for the work L.A.C.E.S. is doing in Kakata. He said that, “for now the biggest success is that these children are getting to know who they should be in life. As time goes by, with the help of God and their companions, we will see it. I believe we will succeed.”

More In Store…

We at L.A.C.E.S. love working with Allen and value his commitment to our mission and vision to serve at-risk kids from all over the world. While the circumstances surrounding the communities we serve appear bleak and even hopeless at times, we know that there is more in store for the future. By hiring local community leaders to facilitate the work needed to be done, we are seeing not only individual children being transformed, but entire communities. At L.A.C.E.S., we take our commitment to the long-term healing and restoration of the people we serve seriously, and will continue to hire and empower local staff members to facilitate change.

Pictured above, Allen leads the L.A.C.E.S. weekly Coaches Meeting.

How You Can Help…

Through our research-backed mentorship curriculum, devoted staff, active feeding program, and competitive soccer leagues, L.A.C.E.S. leverages the power of sport to change lives. We love the work we do, but understand that none of it would be possible without the commitment of our faithful donors. As an organization, we hold ourselves accountable to use donated funding to the highest ethical standard possible and ensure that any donation we receive is treated with reverence. If you’re interested in donating to our life changing work today, you can do so by clicking the link here! If you’d like to know more about our specific programs and approach, you can do so here. At L.A.C.E.S., “It’s More than A Game…”

Samuel’s Story

L.A.C.E.S. READY TO EXPAND

Last year, the Founder and Executive Director Seren Fryatt shared her vision to expand the impact of L.A.C.E.S. to other countries. “We have been looking at several countries where we can start a new chapter for L.A.C.E.S.” Fryatt explained, “We are exploring ways we can reach more children who are at risk.”

The success of L.A.C.E.S. has been well recognized by the international community.  “We have been in Liberia for eleven years,” Seren Fryatt explained from her office in Takoma Park in Maryland.  Fryatt just returned from a trip to Liberia to review the in-country operations. “We have seen extraordinary results through the approach of mentoring children through sports.” Because of the success, L.A.C.E.S. has experienced, there has been a crucial demand to expand our role to other countries.  

This week, a small group of L.A.C.E.S.’s staff from Liberia embarked on an exploratory trip to the Northwest neighbouring country of Sierra Leone. The short distance of 361 kilometres (224 miles) from Monrovia in Liberia to Freetown, Sierra Leone could allow the organization to strategically grow organically.  

Sierra Leone is often called the “little jewel” in West Africa, because of its natural beauty coupled with mountainous landscapes and rich minerals. Similar to Liberia, the country has had a bloody history of a long eleven-year civil war that began in the year 1991. Over 500,000 people were displaced and over 50,000 were killed, in a country of fewer than 4 million people. As you can imagine, it is the children from this small West African nation that have been witnesses to this turmoil.

With 70% of the population living under the poverty line, children are often the most vulnerable of all.  In addition, there have been many injustices which include female genital mutilation, lack of education, and forced labour, which have all contributed to human rights’ challenges that face children in this country.  

“We have a proven model that is very successful,” explained Fryatt, “Now, we want to expand and reach out to more young people through our sports mentoring program.” As L..A.C.E.S. begins to grow its international scope, the goal to bring hope to many children who live on the streets will continue to expand.  

Did you know:

  • 38% of girls 15 years of age and older are literate
  • 29% of school-age children are out of school
  • 37% of children are engaged in child labour
  • 70% of people live in poverty

Source:  Save the Children Federation

 

Read more about Sierra Leone

https://www.humanium.org/en/sierra-leone/

https://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/14/magazine/sierra-leone-is-no-place-to-be-young.html

Innovative Food Program Provides Meals for Kids At Risk

One of the benefits of participating in L.A.C.E.S. soccer program is receiving a fresh meal.  “Most of the Liberian children in our program live on the street,” explained Seren Fryatt, founder and executive director of L.A.C.E.S., an international sports program that provides mentoring and a safe place for children to play.  “These kids, many of who were orphaned due to the war, are trying to survive.  They need to provide for themselves at a young age, which means finding a job.”  Jobs are hard to come by. Many times, the children turn to prostitution and stealing.

The children who participate in the sports programs are provided fully nutritious meals, three times a week.  Food not only gives the kids physical energy, but it also lowers their stress levels, because they are less worried about finding their next meal. 

Providing meals for 300 kids, three times a week could be expensive.  However, L.A.C.E.S. has found a unique solution, The company, J.U.S.T, formerly known as Hampton Creek, was once called by Bill Gates, “the future of food.”  It created a stir among the international community by developing a food product called, “Power Gari”, which looks and feels like porridge.  This nutritional product is made from cassava, red palm oil, sugar, salt, and a soy protein concentrate. It contains high concentrations of vitamins, A, D, B6, and B12, plus iron, zinc, and12 grams of protein.  Most interestingly, it is created in Liberia. 

In a Washington Post article, the company’s founder, Joshua Tetrick said, “I want to make Liberia a big success — success defined by solving the micronutrition problem there and making sure kids have dignity in what they eat,” he said.

“I am so happy that we can provide a meal that the kids and coaches enjoy, and give them a safe outlet to play and build leadership skills, said L.A.C.E.S., founder, Fryatt, who recently returned from a site visit in Liberia. “This food source is tasty and satisfying to the children.  These kids are now healthier more than ever.” 

 

The Results Are In…

Why do Children Live on the Street in Liberia?

Street children exist throughout the world, including Liberia. These are children under the age of 18 for whom the street has become their home and/or source of livelihood. A recent report by Street Child of Liberia estimated that over 14,000 children existed on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia. Their lives are neither positive nor sustainable. Unable to meet their basic needs, these children are highly susceptible to violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation, and at risk for drug addiction, physical trauma, and trouble with the law; girls also run the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Where did these children come from, and why are they here?

liberia

Politics has contributed to the problem. Liberia was plagued by a fourteen-year civil war (1989 – 2003), in which an estimated 270,000 people died while another 850,000 were displaced. During this war, over 10,000 children were recruited as child soldiers. After the war ended the children could return to civilian life, yet in many cases former child soldiers had no surviving relatives or could not locate their families post-conflict. Those that were reunited with their families often did not remain and chose a life on the street instead.

Social issues have played their part in the growth of street children. While attempting to rebuild, Liberia has suffered from war and disease which have, in turn, crippled the economy, destroyed the education system and devastated many communities. In 2014, Liberia was stuck by the Ebola virus, orphaning many as 7,500 children. By that time, most of the former child soldiers had grown up, but the massive fatality rate of Ebola in Liberia (as indicated by CDC – 45%) fostered a new generation of street children. In addition to losing entire families, the surviving children were subject to stigmatization and ostracization from their peers. Without families or caregivers and with no means of survival and no community support, orphaned children have to resort to street labor or prostitution to survive.

Before L.A.C.E.S. liberia2

The lack of economic opportunities and the declining education system have also played a role in children migrating to the streets. The WHO estimates that 64 percent of Liberians live below the poverty line ($1.25/day), with 1.3 million living in extreme poverty. This poverty has prompted parents to force their children to work on the city streets for extra income. Destitute and desperate rural parents often send their children to the city with local businessmen who promise an education and more opportunity. Unfortunately once in the city, children are exploited for their labor. Even if they flee the situation, they remain living the city, where they resort to prostitution and selling in the street to survive.

There are many reasons as to why a child may be living on the street in Liberia, yet one thing remains clear: street children face significant risks and are exceptionally vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect, child labor and sexual exploitation. Even so, many of these children have hope for a future. Street children present a complex challenge, yet we cannot give up hope on them because hope is all they have.

L.A.C.E.S. Youth Basketball Camp

L.A.C.E.S. implemented its first Youth Basketball Camp for thirty refugee children April 17-21 at William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, MD. Hosted by L.A.C.E.S staff and volunteers, the camp focused on learning basketball techniques and five values of L.A.C.E.S – Fair Play, Respect, Teamwork, Self-Esteem and Discipline. Each day the camp focused on a different value and awarded prizes to those kids who best exemplified the value of the day. Kids were taught new skills daily and were encouraged to practice them alongside L.A.C.E.S. values throughout scrimmages.

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LACES2

When refugee children aren’t in school, they have limited positive outlets and activities to be engaged in. L.A.C.E.S. basketball camp provided an opportunity for many children to play basketball for the first time in a fun and safe environment.

In addition to L.A.C.E.S. kids attending, twenty-four students from Atholton Academy joined the camp activities on Thursday. Atholton’s 6th Grade class supported the camp through various fundraisers and equipment donations. The goal of this partnership was to promote cross-cultural integration and tolerance for diversity.

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Overall the Youth Basketball Camp was a success. L.A.C.E.S is grateful for the support of the community and Atholton Academy, which enables us to provide positive and fun experiences for refugee children in the Washington, D.C. metro area.