Welcoming the stranger through futbol

Transformations CDC soccer team helps an immigrant teen feel welcome and loved

Welcoming the stranger through futbol

Welcoming the stranger through futbol 749 472 Episcopalians in Connection

How do you capitalize on a year’s pent-up energy (or couch potato-hood) from distance learning? Offer futbol! (Known in the US as soccer)

The Transformations CDC Futbol team in their new uniforms. The team is coached by Church of Our Saviour member Glenda Ventura.

Many of the young people participating in Transformations’ Learning Club are also futbol enthusiasts. Fortunately, several experienced adult immigrant players have volunteered to coach a growing number of elementary and middle school students. Hearing about our program, more and more kids come every Thursday to practice, then head to matches at surrounding indoor fields or canchas on the weekend.

Win or lose, participating in futbol has made a huge difference for some. They may hail from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico or the US, but all have grown up in Spanish-speaking households. Some have suffered horrendous trauma: bonding with their teammates has relieved at least some of the pain.

In one case, a young teen, his mother, and brother fled Honduras after his father was murdered by a gang and their house torched. Unable to enter the US to apply for asylum, they remained in Mexico for over a year, during which the boy’s 15-year-old brother was murdered in the street. Eventually his mother sent him across the border alone as an “unaccompanied minor” and his 22-year-old uncle became his legal guardian.

When he arrived at Learning Club in late May, his face was completely flat, without expression. He would join us for field trips, but then sit alone, not speaking to anyone. Then we recruited him for our soccer team – he’s become a different person! He claims never to speak to anyone at his school, but he knows all the team members, who have made an invisible circle of caring and support for him. He smiles, laughs and is just a regular 14-year-old kid who no longer feels completely alone.

Nancy Sullivan serves as the director of Transformations CDC, a 501c(3) organization born out of the Church of Our Saviour, La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Cincinnati, that provides educational and health support and advocacy to primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants and their families.