Three years ago American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East started funding the Harsham Soccer Project to restore the soccer field in the Harsham Internally Displaced People’s Camp in northern Iraq. The soccer field was completed in 2019 and since then at least 250 children play on it every month! Unfortunately, the soccer field has been closed for much of 2020 due to COVID-19.
Now the field is back open, the boys are playing soccer again and their coach, Dastan is back at work.
This lockdown was a difficult time for the young boys and their families. 13 years old, Firaz Nasr from Sinjar described his quarantine as “very hard for us because we had to spend the whole of our time in our tent. We were not allowed to come to the pitch (field) and play football.” With the restrictions loosening up, Firaz is much happier: “We are allowed to come out and play football. I love it!”
Jasim Fathi, also 13 years old from Mosul describes his experience as: “It was not good at all. We stayed in our tent for a long time… I really wanted to go out of the tent to play football with my friends.”
Now that the soccer field is open again, Jasim says: “Now, life is back again; as you can see us on the pitch. Dastan is here and all of my friends are around. We are very happy.”
8-year-old Fahd Emad from Sinjar expressed the same struggles as the other boys: “I couldn’t play football. The pitch was closed, there were no matches. No friends were around.”
Now Fahd says: “Now everything is good. I can come out from our tent and play football with my friends… We are doing great!”
“The children have a lot of energy which needs to be released in a positive way,” says dedicated Coach Dastan, “Keeping busy with sport[s] and making friends is such a benefit for them. When they come here in the afternoon they play and play and play, then they get tired and go home and sleep. The pitch (field) is open five days a week and is always full.”
Thanks to your generous donations and Coach Dastan’s hard work, the soccer project has had several success stories! For example, soccer student Mohannad Hosam is now a member of the Aljazeera football club in the United Arab! This is an incredible achievement! “I care for these children and want to continue helping them,” Dastan says. “They are the next generation.” This is only possible due to your generous donations!
American FRRME is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East.