Students and alumni help refugees in East TN through Soccer Club
C-N student Jamison Price, left, serves as director of Refuge FC.
Carson-Newman University students who brought home the plight of third-world poverty through their documentary “Refuge: Children of the Trash” are still reaching the far corners of the world. But this time they are doing so from Knoxville, Tenn.
C-N students Jared Belcher and Jamison Price, along with alumni Matthew Gossett and Taylor Jolley, have transitioned the Refuge film success into Refuge FC, a local football (soccer) club for refugees living in the Knoxville area.
Refuge began with a trip to the Philippines which resulted in a 40-minute documentary highlighting the poverty and plight of children living in the third-world country. The film has appeared in churches and private showings throughout the southeast.
Now the team is branching out to humanitarian efforts rather than solely documentary work.
They partner with a local nonprofit, Global SEEDS, dedicated to reaching the needs of refugees.
Belcher said many of the kids already know how to play soccer since the sport is such an international sensation. Refuge FC teaches skill building and life lessons in a fun, community-building environment.
Ranging in ages, most of the children are from middle Eastern nations and not all speak English fluently.
“Many speak English, but a broken English,” Belcher said. “Many are going to be starting school in the fall. Learning in an American public school will be difficult for them.”
It is also a struggle for the Refuge FC volunteers to find unique ways to communicate as well as bridge the gap between cultures.
Each volunteer undergoes training to learn how to interact and minister to the differing cultures. Knoxville-based Global SEEDS provides training.
“Many are dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” Belcher said. “They will face enormous barriers with building and maintaining healthy relationships.”
“We follow a set of rules to address some of these difficulties,” he added.
Some of these rules include being very intentional in greetings and farewells so the children won’t mistakenly feel abandoned.
Even volunteers who come for only one of the twice–a-week sessions must pour over information on how to effectively meld cultures.
Belcher said the idea for the football club grew from a desire to continue to reach marginalized and impoverished people but in a way much more hands on than their previous documentary endeavor. Belcher said the Refuge team noticed that they all currently or in the past played soccer, a sport which, similar to a smile or laughter, is understood by most cultures.
“It seemed natural to start the football club,” he said.
They recently concluded the first summer session, but Belcher said they plan to start again in August. However, Refuge FC has an even broader future than its current Knoxville base.
The team is currently accepting applications for their planned 2014 summer project to Liberia.
This will meld the storytelling of documentary-making with the hands-on ministry of the football club in a country on the cusp of development.
Belcher said that numerous calls from nonprofits came flooding in after the success of their documentary. All wanted to partner with the group of college students.
“We were overwhelmed at first,” the rising college senior said. But one contact in Liberia caught the group’s attention.
“Liberia just came out of a civil war,” Belcher said. “To be able to go in and film a people who are not only rebuilding their country but recreating their identity is a huge opportunity.”
The team will bring their Refuge FC model to Liberia as a means to reach the people.
“Children of the Trash was an experiment,” said Belcher. “What happens when we do this intentionally?”
For more information, visit the team’s website at fc.refugeinc.com.