Encouragement In Resettlement
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…
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…
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.
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!
A Scavenger Hunt for the Whole Family!
Last week, L.A.C.E.S. had the privilege of showcasing our in-house designed scavenger hunts of the Natural History Museum! As part of Bain & Company’s Community Impact Day, children who participate in the L.A.C.E.S. Refugee program were able to partner with adults working in the D.C. area to have an exciting day checking out one of the Capital’s most famous museums! It was a tremendous success, so upon request we’ve decided to distribute our different scavenger hunt guides to anyone interested in doing it for themselves!
Below you’ll find our 6 different scavenger hunts located in the Natural History Museum in a downloadable, PDF format. Each has been separated by their level of difficulty along with a brief description! Download, share with your friends, and enjoy!
1. Mammals and Human Origins
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
2. Ocean Hall and African Voices
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
3. Fossil Hall
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
4. Geology and Gems
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
5. Insects, Mummies, and Dinosaurs
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
6. Temporary Exhibits
To download this hunt’s instructions, click here!
If you’d like to download a master sheet of all of the courses, you can do so by clicking: here!
It’s More Than A Game…
At L.A.C.E.S., we work hard to serve refugee children in the United States as well as street children and Ebola orphans in Liberia, West Africa. Through a research-backed curriculum, an emphasis on mentorship, sports initiatives, and more, L.A.C.E.S. stands to provide holistic healing for children in need of it. If you would like to learn more about our work, visit here!
An Adventure Like No Other!
The most vulnerable in the world…
Around the world, more than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes according to a recent report published by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are children. These children are often forced to face severe trauma and burdensome pressures during their resettlement process. Additionally, these vulnerable kids endure intense scrutiny at the hands of ignorance and stigma. In the United States, polarizing opinions regarding immigration policies create controversy and uninformed biases against refugees and their families. This in turn has inevitably created a culture that at times does not welcome those in serious need.
For many of the children enrolled in the L.A.C.E.S. program, their earliest days were spent in some of the world’s most volatile nations. Most of them, by no choice of their own, were forced to pack up everything they knew and leave their homes, possibly forever. At L.A.C.E.S., we have the privilege of serving boys and girls from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more. The children in our program are bright, kind, happy, funny, and are working hard to acclimate to their new home in the United States. One of the many ways that we at L.A.C.E.S. choose to help in this process is by hosting our annual Refugee Youth Adventure Camp. This particular camp is a major summer highlight for our kids and this year’s was possibly the best one ever!
The answer became obvious…
When L.A.C.E.S. first began in 2007, our work and programming efforts were exclusively focused in Liberia, West Africa. After years of developing our curriculum, having our impact proven through extensive research, and seeing the incredible difference being made along the way, it was evident that we had to expand and begin helping more youth around the world. Where we should expand to however, was not as evident. We considered East Africa along with some neighboring countries of Liberia first, but upon closer evaluation, the answer became obvious.
“We finally started to look in our own back yard,” said Seren Fryatt, founder of L.A.C.E.S. “We found that refugee youth had very little services offered to them apart from school and felt like this population of kids could really benefit from our program. Implementing our work stateside became the next logical step.” This new endeavor to take our tried and proven work in Liberia and implement it in the United States officially launched in the summer of 2016. Through soccer leagues, home visits, and exciting initiatives like our Refugee Youth Adventure Camp, we have just entered into our fourth year working with refugee children and have cherished every second of it.
Our Best Yet!
Throughout this past week’s camp, children from all different nationalities and backgrounds were able to come together and bond through adventure themed activities. Khadija from Afghanistan got to show off her athletic ability at the trampoline park. Edwine from the DRC faced her fear of heights and went rock climbing. Laura from Iraq proved to herself and everyone around her that she could conquer the highest rope course we put in front of her. With the help of several volunteers and hardworking staff members, this year’s adventure camp was one of the most successful we’ve had to date. It was a fantastic few days for our organization and was so much more significant than just fun and games.
A community to belong to…
At L.A.C.E.S., at-risk children from all over the world are able to come and know that they matter. Along with constructive outlets for their free time and new experiences otherwise not possible, the refugee youth within the L.A.C.E.S. program are given a community they can belong to, mentors they can look up to, and memories that will last for the rest of their lives. The years that surround resettling to the United States are some of the most difficult that many people can go through. We find so much joy and fulfillment being able to make this process a bit easier for our refugee children.
You can help…
The work that we at L.A.C.E.S. are able to do day in and day out would not be possible without the generosity of our faithful donors and volunteers. We believe to our core that in order to make a real difference in the world, a collective effort must be made from everyone able to help. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering your time and talents, you can apply to serve with us here! We also are excited to partner with our faithful donors to continue sustaining and growing our programming around the world. If you would like to donate to the world changing work of L.A.C.E.S., you can give a one-time donation or become a monthly giver by visiting here, today!
L.A.C.E.S. Annual Refugee Youth Soccer Camp
Every summer, we at L.A.C.E.S. have the privilege and opportunity to host our Refugee Youth Soccer Camp for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 15 years old in the greater MD/VA area. This camp has proven to be a time for refugee children from all over the world to come together, practice new soccer skills, learn valuable life lessons, and enjoy playing with their peers. It’s a major highlight for our organization’s Refugee Program and last month’s was one of our most successful camps yet!
At L.A.C.E.S., we refuse to settle into allowing our one-day events, sports camps, soccer leagues, and other initiatives to be just “a fun time.” We believe on a fundamental level that every interaction we have with the children in our programs has the potential for us to instill important values and change in them. We take this belief seriously and work hard to ensure that all of our volunteers, coaches, and staff take it seriously as well.
It’s More than Fun and Games
This year’s Refugee Youth Soccer Camp started early in the morning on June 24th. A swarm of kids from varying countries eagerly waited outside of their apartment buildings in anticipation for the week ahead. Leah, our Operations Coordinator, had worked tirelessly for weeks to ensure that the children were properly registered, their families were informed, and that everyone coming to camp was accounted for.
After the first morning roll call, the large school bus responsible for transporting the camp’s participants arrived at the first pick-up location and the excitement felt by the children was contagious. “You know when I drive these kids around, I don’t just see it as a job. There is precious cargo on this school bus!” said Miss Evelyn, our bus driver for the week. Miss Evelyn cares deeply about the children she works with. Her diligence throughout the week to stop at each of the apartment complexes our children live in and bring them safely to camp at the Total Soccer Arena in Maryland was a beautiful act of service.
We Love Our Volunteers!
Every day of camp started off with breakfast and a brief time for the children to mingle as L.A.C.E.S. staff and volunteers set up goals and cones in preparation for the activities to come. It takes a lot of committed volunteers to make our camp a success and this year’s was no different. Apart from the 50+ children who attended the event, there were also more than 20 volunteers who gave of their time, effort, and resources to help make the experience valuable for all of the children participating.
“Welcome, everyone!” Seren Fryatt, executive director of L.A.C.E.S. enthusiastically yelled as the children gathered around the indoor facility for the first day of camp. “We have a lot to look forward to this week!” The kids cheered back to her as they were more than ready to begin. For many of the children within our program, the apartment complexes they call Home don’t allow much room for them to play outside. This makes summer vacation especially challenging for them and their families so the opportunity to attend a soccer camp is significant.
Everything Done with Intention and Purpose
After breakfast and morning announcements, the children were quickly broken up into different teams based on their age and size. It was in these teams that they would take part in soccer drills, team scrimmages, mentorship sessions, and coaching from experienced volunteers every day for the rest of camp. This component of the week’s curriculum is one of the most important as it enables children who would naturally shy away from the larger crowd of our camp to be able to plug in to a smaller group of children close to their age. Everything that we do throughout camp is done with intention and purpose.
Mentorship Makes the Difference
“Sports is one of the most accurate metaphors for all of life in that there is adversity, sacrifice, commitment, and there is togetherness or teamwork.” -Brandon Smith, Pastor at Peace City Church, L.A.C.E.S. Volunteer
Brandon Smith is a local pastor with Peace City Church and has a heart for serving all people, including refugee children. Every day during camp, Brandon gave up several hours in his schedule to come sit with our L.A.C.E.S. children and teach them values like respect, self-esteem, and sacrifice. At the end of each day, our volunteer coaches would reward individual children on their teams with candy bars based on who represented that day’s value the best. It was a really incredible time for the children where they learned that their actions matter and were then rewarded publicly for those actions. Behind everything that we do, the mentorship of children through our research-backed curriculum is what really makes an impact.
The Final Celebration
On Friday, the last day of camp, coaches, campers, and volunteers gathered together for one final “good bye.” However, this closing group meeting was different from the rest that week. In order to celebrate the success of another Refugee Youth Soccer Camp and to ensure that the children could continue practicing what they had learned, we gave every child a soccer ball of their own. It was an important moment where the kids could leave camp with tangible reminder of the values they would continue using for the rest of their lives.
We Can’t Do It Without You!
The work we do day in and day out at L.A.C.E.S. is crucial for the children we serve and we are honored to do it. However, without the commitment, support, and generous donations of our world-changing partners, our programming and initiatives would not be possible. As an organization founded on integrity and respect for others, we work diligently to use the funds given to us with the utmost ethics and efficiency. If you would like to begin donating monthly to the world-changing work of L.A.C.E.S., you can visit here for more information and become a Game Changer, today! For all one-time donations, visit here to make a contribution to our work both in the United States and in Liberia!
World Refugee Day 2019!
A Crisis of Historic Proportions
Every two seconds someone around the world is being forced to relocate. Rising conflicts in parts of the Middle East, South America, Asia, and Africa are creating violent living conditions that have become uninhabitable for innocent bystanders. Currently, the number of men, women, and children being forced to flee their homes is the highest it has been since World War II. Today, more than 70 million people are displaced around the globe and the options available for them to live normal lives, if they are able to escape to safety, are slim. The situation is grave and the ongoing efforts of World Superpowers does not seem to be doing enough.
“…children were forced to flee and resettle while being (..) unaccompanied by an adult”
Current statistics and incoming data provided by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) state that over half of all refugees being forced to relocate around the world are vulnerable youth and children under the age of 18 years’ old. By the end of 2018, 111,000 of these children were forced to flee unaccompanied by an adult to help take care of them. Without the stability needed to thrive during their childhood years, refugee children are often the most susceptible to physical, emotional, and mental traumas that accompany displacement. Unfortunately, these children often fall through the cracks of societal institutions that should be helping and protecting them.
We Have HOPE!
In the midst of such tragedy and crisis, caring men and women from all walks of life have chosen to take action and graciously welcome refugees into their communities and lives. We as an organization have been privileged and encouraged to have heard some amazing stories of deep empathy, empowering boldness, and selfless bravery from those willing to help.
“men and women from all walks of life have chosen to take action and welcome vulnerable refugees into their communities and lives.”
In Memphis, business owners have donated pieces of their household furniture to resettlement agencies in order to furnish the apartments of newly resettled refugee families. In New York, well-known photographers and bloggers have used their influence to share the plight and stories of vulnerable refugees. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being raised in support of the ongoing crisis. In Minnesota, local governments are making an important statement by recognizing and honoring outstanding refugee individuals with awards that highlight civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and youth leadership. We at L.A.C.E.S. believe that the ongoing work needs to be a collective effort and the momentum we are seeing all around the country inspires us!
L.A.C.E.S. Is Busy at Work
At L.A.C.E.S., we provide fun and constructive programs and initiatives that are outlets for refugee children which help them regain important aspects of a healthy childhood. So far this summer, L.A.C.ES. had the honor and privilege of co-hosting the Refugee Community Soccer Day at Cardozo High School in Washington D.C. This event was in partnership with incredible organizations such as One Journey Festival, D.C. United, District Sports and OnSide! It was a significant time that offered the opportunity for local refugee families to connect and engage with their communities.
Looking ahead this summer, we have exciting events planned to continue providing refugee children and their families with the support they need! These include our annual Refugee Soccer Camp taking place from June 24th-28th, the One Journey Festival happening on June 29th, our Adventure Camp starting on July 24th, and our four week partnership with the IRC (International Rescue Committee) in their Academic Camp starting on July 8th.
L.A.C.E.S. staff members are also involved in several new advocacy initiatives for this year’s World Refugee Day. These include attending the World Refugee Day 2019 Press Conference on Capital Hill and speaking live on NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Our schedule is full and we are thankful for the opportunities in place to continue championing such a crucial cause!
L.A.C.E.S.’ Long Term Solution
At times, we at L.A.C.E.S. are asked how our programming is offering a solution needed in the lives of refugee kids and other at-risk children. A specific instance comes to mind when someone new to our work recently asked the question “So what? You just provide a meal and a chance for these kids to play sports, have fun, and receive mentoring? Is that effective at a long-term level?” Our answer… “YES!” And here’s why…
“…we understand that the work we are doing is an incredible resource and asset in changing the lives of children in need, forever!”
While refugee families from around the world have vital, physical needs that must be addressed (housing, food, income, etc.) their other necessities are often overlooked. The UNHCR has released several stories over recent years showing how men and women who are able to remain productive are also able to maintain a strong sense of dignity.
For children, the need to play and be active with their friends is crucial in helping them develop into healthy adults. At L.A.C.E.S., our programming provides children who have had their childhoods disrupted the chance to regain their self-esteem, find community, learn important life-values, and enjoy their childhoods. Through our research backed programs, we understand that the work we are doing is an incredible resource and asset in changing the lives of children in need, forever!
World Refugee Day Is EVERY Day at L.A.C.E.S.
World Refugee Day is a significant time for the world to pause and reflect on the ongoing crisis happening. However, we at L.A.C.E.S. are dedicated in treating every single day with the same passion and drive to help children within this community. By utilizing volunteers, being responsible with our donated resources, and actively seeking new and innovative ways to serve, our organization is committed to continue adding positive solutions to the ongoing plight of refugee children. For more information on our work and to find out how you can be involved, click here!
L.A.C.E.S. and the Ethiopian Community Development Council hosted a World Refugee Soccer Tournament Sunday, June 11 in honor of World Refugee Day. Five teams, comprised of refugees and community members, competed in five small sided games then faced off in a semi-final and championship match. Refugees participating in the tournament came from Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Syria, Colombia and Sudan, while community members live in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland. Each team received matching shirts while the winning team was awarded tickets to attend a D.C. United soccer game together of their choosing. Without knowing one another beforehand and despite cultural differences, teams were able to come together to compete in the spirit of soccer.
World Refugee Day is internationally recognized and celebrated annually on June 20th. The holiday was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000 in an effort to acknowledge the plight of refugees and encourage governments to work together to address refugee needs. According to UNHCR, there are over 21.3 million refugees in the world, while 86% of those refugees are hosted by developing countries. Moreover, less than 1% of refugees are ever resettled. Per the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, nearly 85,000 refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016 and the number dwindling to 46,000 thus far in fiscal year 2017.
In addition to the soccer tournament, families and spectators were invited to participate in face painting and crafts. Alongside one another, community members and refugees participated in advocating on behalf of refugees by writing postcards to their government representatives. With support from Giant Foods, Capital City Cheesecake, Middle Eastern Cuisine and other sponsors, food and beverages were provided to players and spectators.
Overall the tournament was a success! Albeit being strangers, team camaraderie quickly developed and new friendships made. L.A.C.E.S. enjoyed providing a chance for refugee families and the larger community to come together in commemoration of such an important day. The soccer tournament demonstrated the power of sports to cross language, social, economic and cultural barriers and can be used as a tool for integration and acceptance.
If you would like to participate in writing to your state representatives and advocate for refugees, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In partnership with the Ethiopian Community Development Council, L.A.C.E.S. will be co-sponsoring a soccer tournament to commemorate World Refugee Day, a globally recognized holiday on June 20th of every year. In an effort to promote community integration and advocacy for refugees, this event will provide refugees and the greater D.C. area an opportunity to engage with one another and foster positive cross-cultural interaction.
The soccer tournament will be held Sunday, June 11 at West Potomac Park near the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument from 11 am – 5 pm. Teams participating in the tournament will be comprised of a mix of ten refugees and community members at least thirteen years of age.
“This soccer tournament will be a great experience for both refugee children and their families as well as the community at large to come together and learn more about one another,” as noted by Kristin Henderson, who works directly with L.A.C.E.S.
The United Nations General Assembly first observed World Refugee Day on June 20, 2001 to honor the perseverance and strength of the men, women and children forced to flee their homes under threat of conflict, persecution, and violence. In 2015 alone, over 65 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their home and less than 1% of all the world’s refugees were resettled. In fiscal year 2016, the U.S. resettled nearly 85,000 refugees. Since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, 3 million refugees have resettled in America. Refugees flee from countries all over the world. Refugees resettling in the D.C. Metro Area come from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Birundi, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
L.A.C.E.S. (Life and Change Experienced thru Sport) works with refugee youth from 14 different countries in the Washington D.C. area. By providing sports camps, access to leagues and with an aim for long-term programming, L.A.C.E.S. encourages refugee integration, promotes positive development and alleviates some of the challenges refugee children face during the early stages of resettlement.
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.
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.
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.