Featuring, in order of appearance:
Moubark Abdallah Ahmat, Gabriel Stauring, Katie-Jay Scott Stauring, Mark Hodson,
Ismail Gamaradeen Abaker, James Thacher, Adam Yahya Ramadan, Mohammed Adam Abdallah,
Abobaker Zakaria Ali, Ibrahim Abdelrazik, Bichara Abderaman, Abdelhamid Djouma, Iggy , Abdulhamid Mohamed Gum, Mubarak Khamis Ahmad, Mohammed Annour,
Mohamed Jabir Dafalah, Youssouf Abdallah Mahamat, Mohamed Makmoud,
Mubarak Haggar Duogom, Saddam Hissein Abdine, Saleh Abakar Yahya,
Soulyman Abdulbassit Omer, Sulieman Adam Borma, Brian Cleveland
Gabriel Stauring is the founder and executive director of iACT, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit with a mission to provide humanitarian action to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities. Previously, Stauring worked as an advocate and counselor for abused children and their families in the US.
He graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he a majored in Behavioral Science.
Stauring has been working in eastern Chad refugee camps since 2005, and to-date has visited 11 of the 12 Darfuri refugee camps over 23 trips to the region. While there, Stauring facilitated video conversations between the refugee community and The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, United States Department of State, and several schools.
Inspired by his trips, he has spearheaded national campaigns such as the 100-Day Fast for Darfur; Darfur Freedom Summer Vigils; Darfur Fast for Life; Camp Darfur, an educational refugee-camp like exhibit that places Darfur in the historical context of past genocides; and the ethnographic art exhibit MY HOME: A Walk Through Children’s Memories of Darfur.
Stauring currently oversees the implementation of iACT’s community-based education, sports, and human rights programs in the refugee camps, including Little Ripples preschool education program, Darfur United Soccer Academy, and the Right to Education Human Rights Library.
For Little Ripples, he presented at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 2013 and at the ACEI Global Summit on Childhood in March 2016. Stauring is currently on the shortlist for the 2016 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, and is featured in The Enough Moment by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle.
“From my very first trip to the refugee camps in 2005, I could see that there was something powerful about what football could do to the spirit of a child who had experienced severe trauma. When I brought out a ball and started playing with them, they were no longer refugees or survivors. They were footballers, experiencing the same joy that any child around experiences when kicking a ball with friends”“
"After many trips and many duffel bags full of balls and equipment delivered to the camps, in 2011 we heard of an opportunity to create a team and take them to compete in a tournament for non-FIFA teams in Iraqi Kurdistan”
“First of all, soccer brings them joy. The value of that is immeasurable. Their lives are difficult, and there is a loss of hope, as they see the world leave them behind. But soccer keeps them connected with that world and with a sense of hope”, Gabriel expressed. “The Darfur United Team offers hope and gives Darfuris a vehicle to tell their stories to the world.” It was named “Darfur United”.
Darfur? Wait, Wasn’t That Fixed A Long Time Ago?”
An article by Gabriel Stauring - written for the Huffington Post
I hear a version of that question over and over again when I tell people that I work with refugees from Darfur. Of course, there are also many that wait for me to say more since they do not know where or what Darfur is. After more than 13 years of violence, displacement, and starvation, the “problem from hell” in Darfur is nowhere closer to being solved, and survivors and veteran advocates wonder if there’s really any way to get the world to care enough to act.
I asked friends that I met through working on this cause to reflect back on 13 years of Darfur. Below are answers from fellow activists in the U.S., refugee friends in camps in Chad, and Darfuris living in that remote, mostly forgotten land:
From genocide history, until today, and in Darfur in particular, I believe in this one sentence: Dictators who are addicted to committing atrocities, will not stop until they are STOPPED. —Mohamed Suleiman, Darfuri living in the U.S.
* * *
I became an activist for Darfur because a friend from Sudan asked me to try and help. I didn’t get involved in a cause, I got involved with people that my friend cared about and now, people that I care about. Life is difficult, but it is even harder when it is burdened with dysfunction, violence, selfishness and greed. Those are problems that will take a long time to fix, but that is not my job - it is theirs. My job is to be a friend, to help however I can, and to be forever thankful for the way my Sudanese and South Sudanese friends have enriched my life. —Esther Sprague, activists, Sudan Unlimited
* * *
Everyone is looking only for his own interests, not for humanity’s. —Alim, 16 years old, living in Darfur
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Every country does [what?] is best for itself and forgets about the weaker ones. —Raya, 15 years old, living in Darfur
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During this entire slow-motion genocide, there have been no consequences for the perpetrators and orchestrators of the atrocities. It is no wonder, then, that it still bleeds on. Until the international community — led by the United States — gets serious about creating real accountability — both legal and financial — for the human rights crimes, then the Sudan government surely will continue to prosecute its war against the people of Darfur... by any means necessary.” —John Prendergast, activist, Founding Director, Enough Project
* * *
I’m proud to be part of a movement and a family of people who believe that there will one day be peace in the hearts and lives of all Darfuris, but sad that violence continues today. What keeps me going is knowing that we have been able to support efforts of peace through education and Darfuri-led programs that puts them on a path towards peace. I believe so strongly that they deserve peace and that they can achieve it with support. —Katie-Jay Scott, activist, iACT
* * *
I think such behavior from the world community could only lead to more violence in Darfur. —Mohamed, living in Darfur
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Since the UN has failed to bring peace and justice to Darfur, we have none to help except our creator. —Adam, 58 years old, living in Darfur
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Such failure from the world community could encourage to more genocides elsewhere . —Adou, living in Darfur
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I am getting crazy to see the UN behaving like this. —Adam, 60 years old, living in Darfur
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I thought my children will live in peace since there is UN. Then I realized that was only a dream. —Sawra, mother of six, living in Darfur
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Thirteen years we lost education, our homeland, our future and so much more. All of this not because of the war only, but because we have been forgotten by the international community and big countries’ governments. So they closed their eyes to the Darfur crisis. Violence. Rape. Killing. Resettlement of Arabs in our land. War was and is everywhere, but Darfur is being forgotten. —Tarbosh, living in Darfuri refugee camp
* * *
My faith and hope. The words of John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” I live by these words and so I cannot stop working for peace for the men, women, and children of Darfur. —Marv Steinberg, activist, Genocide No More, Save Darfur, Redding, CA
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My first thought is always: how can it be 13 years and worse than ever? How can the serial genocides in Sudan have happened and keep happening with the full knowledge of the world? I feel like I can’t really do anything anymore due to my illness. I sign e-petitions and letters and try to keep up with the news somewhat but feel mostly useless. My heart broke a long time ago for the survivors and their descendants who will never have anything close to a life and continue to bear the scars—all types—for generations into the future. —Martina Knee, activist, San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition The western world is being forced to confront the refugee crisis. It is not only at our front door, it has actually walked (or sailed) right through it. The “problem” is no longer only in far away, isolated camps, where we can throw money and bags of food at it—and then not be bothered. Europe and, in a less direct way, the U.S. are deciding what to do with the masses of people who are fleeing extreme violence and hopelessness. These decisions are more often than not guided by political concerns—not humanitarian ones. The crises are only seen as immediate emergencies, and there is not enough concern for the long-term.
We have to do better at stopping the root causes of the refugee crisis: mass violence. And we have to do better at recognizing the opportunities that come with the people that are being displaced. They are not the problem. They are like you and me, full of hope and potential. They deserve a life of dignity and the opportunity to make this world even more amazing.
An arcticle by Moubark
An American charity came to the refugee camp in Chad. They told us: ‘We are going to try to win the World Cup for minorities in Sweden.’ We lost four out of four matches, conceded 61 goals, but we got to meet great people from all over the world.
It was dark when we sneaked out of the hotel. The last night of the tournament. We took a taxi, gave the driver all the money we had. Ten thousand Swedish crowns. We told him to drive us to the Migration Agency in Gävle. We thought that was the only office of the Migration Agency in Sweden, 390 kilometres from where we were.
Us players thought it was much better to flee by plane. Otherwise you have to pay a lot of money and walk too long, take risks across the Mediterranean.
We were lucky. We were notified that we could stay in Sweden a few days before Christmas Eve. Now we want to live in a house together, practise football, sleep and eat together. Life will be good.
So now Darfur United, the football team that was started in the refugee camp in Chad, has moved to Sweden, since we all fled to here.
Mark has been involved with US Youth Soccer for the past 19 years, and has helped to develop and support the success of a significant number of players, teams, and clubs across the country during that time.
Mark’s roles within the Beach FC organization are South Bay Director, and Head Coach to the Girls 2007. His goal is to continue to support the success of the club on and off the field, as Beach FC works hard to establish itself as the premier youth soccer organization in the US and beyond.v Born in England, Mark studied Physical Education at the University of York St. John. On completing his degree, He began working in the education pathway for youth players at various professional football clubs throughout the UK. These clubs included Middlesbrough, Burnley, Wigan Athletic, Darlington Town, Exeter City, Torquay United, Mansfield, Rochdale, and Plymouth Argyle.
In 1999 Mark moved to Long Island, NY to Coach with MLS Camps in their youth training programs — and so began Mark’s coaching career in the US.
Having coached extensively on both coasts, Mark has enjoyed a fantastic journey working with thousands of youth soccer players and many clubs and organizations, at all levels of the game.
In 2004 Mark relocated from NY to Los Angeles to serve as the District Leader for MLS Camps, working closely with many MLS franchises — including the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake — developing and implementing their youth training programs.
Mark has great experience in developing Youth Soccer Organizations in the capacity as both Director of Coaching and through his own International Coaching Company, that services numerous Youth Soccer Organizations across the US. Mark joined Beach FC is 2014 and considers it to be one of his best decisions in his coaching career. Outside of US Youth Soccer, Mark also serves as head coach to an International refugee team called Darfur United, and has led them into competition in a serie of world tournament, which has seen the team travel, train and compete in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Mark Lives in Hermosa Beach with his wife Ashley and two young children Willamena and Kingston..
They Play for Darfur
An article by Mark Hodson
To say the team has improved on the field is maybe one of the greater underestimations I may have made in my almost-40 years on this planet. The football is unrecognizable from the hurried chatter and enthusiasm that kicked up the unbreathable dirt in the blazing heat of refugee camp Djabal in 2012.
At that time, we somehow selected a group of 16 individuals from the 60 hopeful players who attended that camp and we embarked on a journey that would lead us on an unlikely route from Chad to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, finally and thankfully, the unlikely setting of a unique, beautiful, and “guardian angel”-inhabited city in the middle of Sweden named Östersund. What is also almost unfathomable is the growth and strength that these young men have garnered on their unlikely and remarkable path to being everyone’s favorite “other” football team.
As Coach, the football part, of course, makes me happy: the team’s ability to play was always there but without knowing what it looked like outside of the confines of a dirt pitch and a makeshift ball, the team needed a little gentle polishing, to remove the coarse exterior and reveal the shiny brilliance that lay beneath.
The boys’ commitment and dedication to learn made improvement a given and despite all the odds being firmly stacked against them, the team got a little better each and every day.
There is unquestionably still a long way to go in our football evolution and the early results and performances in Iraq and Sweden may have understandably created bewilderment for those in the competitive circuit that gave us a chance to move into the spotlight, but we continued to work hard and with each camp progressed, as we continued on our path to the top of our own special mountain!
It’s very easy to knock something down, but it takes a long time to construct something beautiful.
After each game, I ask “How did we play?” and I get nothing but honesty: “We did better today, Coach!”… “We need to pass the ball more, Coach”… “Mal koiz [“no good”], Coach.” I usually nod in agreement and try to realign to how we’ve progressed from our original starting point back on those sandy dirt pitches.
We are on a very special journey as a group. The improvement we have made on the field is enormous but pales in significance to the progress we have made off the field.
As we conduct our post camp meetings with each player, there is a resounding message that keeps coming back over and over. Sometimes it’s verbally communicated and sometimes it’s communicated simply through the sadness, tinged with hope, that wells in the players’ eyes.
They play for Darfur. They play for every child that remains in those horrific camps. sitting, waiting, praying for a better chance in life.
They play for their wives whom they love, their sons and daughters whom they miss so much that their bodies hurt and can’t sleep at night. Children whom they haven’t seen since they made the impossibly brave decision to try to forge a life outside of the camps so that one day they might share a better future for their family.
They play for Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice to lead these young players out of Darfur.
They play for tomorrow and the hope they can go home and live lives like you and me, where we sleep without consideration with our loved ones under the safety of our own roof each night.
Keep supporting their play. It brings them nothing but joy and hope and I’ve seen it with my own eyes; impossible just takes time.
"Like any other day, Ismail’s mother was walking to their village’s market one fine morning, when all hell broke loose. On that infamous day, a few days before civil war broke out in the Darfur region of western Sudan, the pro-Government militia gang of Janjaweed attacked civilians.
Major armed conflict in Sudan started in February 2003 when the rebel groups of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) revolted against the government of Sudan to protest against the growing oppression of Darfur’s non-Arab citizens. Janjaweed is the notorious Sudanese native militia group that mostly recruits indigenous Afro-Arabians. The Sudanese Government used it against rebel groups and civilians when insurgence escalated in 2003.
Ismail’s father was shot and badly hurt right in front of his mother.
As he lay on the ground—dying—Ismail and his mother came and sat next to him, desperately seeking aid and trying to give him some relief. Ismail’s father foresaw the miseries awaiting his family. He asked his wife to take all their seven children and escape this death zone. Ismail asked his mother to find the other young children, and he went to collect some animals for the long walk towards Chad’s border. Unfortunately, his father died. The mother and her seven children managed to survive, and all of them now live as refugees in Chad.
“You know my mother. We met before”, Ismail uttered in broken English. They were in an aeroplane, flying to Iraq. He had a small Polaroid picture in his hand; he was looking at it and was showing it to the other man sitting next to him. That was his mother with his other siblings in the picture.
The man identified his mother. He had met Ismail before, when he was younger. Such coincidence!
Ismail kept telling him their stories, about their homes, and their lives in the refugee camp. Ismail was flying to Iraq in 2012 to participate in a world football tournament.
The VIVA World Cup is an international football tournament organized by the New Federation Board for teams not affiliated with FIFA. It was held every two years. Ismail was one of the two goalkeepers of the team, and a born leader.
Yes, you read it right. The Darfur refugee camp has a football team of its own! The team members have endured unbelievable hardships of the vast refugee camp of Chad, escaping from the terror of genocide. Yet, they have continued to play—for their life, for their existence.
Gabriel is the Founder and Executive Director at i-ACT, a California based non-profit.
In addition to visiting the refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur more than 20 times, Gabriel has spearheaded campaigns such as the 100-Day Fast for Darfur, Darfur Freedom Summer Vigils, Camp Darfur, Darfur Fast for Life, and innovative programs like Darfur United and Little Ripples.
In 2012 Gabriel founded Darfur United football team. Not just a football team formed to take part in an international competition, but much more. A team that represents an entire people, and a way to raise attention on Darfuri people, using a simple and attractive language: football. After more than 10 years, he considers the people of Darfur no longer as someone to help, but as his closest friends.
Moubarag is part of Darfur United team since its formation. He is a talentuous soccer player, but his life has been full of sport accidents. In 2014, during the 1st match against Padania, he had a serious injury.
Days after, only 10 team players remained available, since many of them had escaped from the tournament to ask for asylum in Sweden. Moubarag was still injured, but he succeeded in playing, thus becoming Gabriel’s personal hero.
Today Moubarag lives in Ostersund, Swden, where he decided to stay after the match. He is studying enlish, he is a young, brilliant guy who has just received a 2-years valid visa and is trying to insert himself into swedesh society: he is working for OFK (Ostersund Football Club) and every month he sends some money to his family living in the refugee camps of Chad..
Ismail is Darfur United’s goalkeeper. More than a decade ago his mother was walking in the market when their village was attacked by militia.
Her husband was shot and as he lay wounded, he told her to gather their seven children and escape.
Ismail’s mother walked with her children for 20 days across the desert, with no food or water in a bid to reach the border of neighbouring Chad. For almost 11 years, Ismail and his family have lived in a tented refugee camp in eastern Chad.
In 2014 he went with Darfur United team to Sweden for their 2nd international tournament.
On that occasion, one night he run away, and decided to ask for asylum, first in Norway, than in Sweden. Now he lives in Ostersund, Sweden.
Mark is 37 years of age and was born in Whalley, Lancashire. He was a keen youth football player at County level. He studied PE at University and then took up various positions at professional clubs throughout the UK, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Wigan Athletic, Darlington Town, Exeter, Torquay, Mansfield, Rochdale and Plymouth Argyle where he became a Coach at youth level.
In 2010 Mark started his own Soccer Coaching Company, Evolution Soccer Programs and employs 50 full time Professional Coaches from both the UK and USA. In 2012 at the invitation of Gabriel Stauring, founder of i-Act, he became the Manager of the Darfur United Football Team and has taken this team to compete in football tournaments in Kurdistan and Sweden.
If someone was writing a fictional movie about Darfur United and their journey to scoring their first ever international goal, Mubarak Haggar is exactly who you’d want to be the hero. Mubarak was chosen to be the striker for his all-refugee team, and strike he did.
The first goal came at the start of the second half of their last game.
Mubarak put the ball on the far left corner and in to the net, and he ran and jumped into history. He knew that the moment he just helped shape was resonating all the way to Africa, in refugee camps up and down the Chad-Sudan border, and in Darfur, the land he escaped from because of violence. On his face, pride.