Soccer Without Borders is thrilled to announce its delegation for the upcoming Youth Festival at the FIFA Women's World Cup, hosted by streetfootballworld and Sport dans la Ville.
From June 29 to July 8, 2019, forty delegations representing the leading football for development organizations from around the world will head to Lyon, France for a festival of football, fair play, and female empowerment.
Meet our Soccer Without Borders delegation:
Shiham, SWB Oakland, Player
Shiham is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her family fled the developing civil war in the DRC and headed to Uganda, where they lived in a refugee camp for 11 years. When Shiham arrived to the United States, she learned about Soccer Without Borders through a case worker at the International Rescue Committee. She remembers not being sure if she would play at first, since only boys were soccer players where she grew up. But Shiham says the reason soccer is so special to her now is because it was the first thing that showed her girls can do whatever they want. She now lives in Oakland, CA with her grandmother, her uncle, and her younger sister.
Vanessa, SWB Boston (front left), Player
Vanessa joined Soccer Without Borders five years ago after moving to Boston from Honduras. When she joined SWB at age 11, she spoke very little English and was entirely new to sports and playing on a team, often relying on her younger sister to translate. Now in high school, Vanessa is a leader on her team and has the confidence to try everything from hockey to wrestling to coaching and interviewing.
Ophi, SWB Colorado (right), Player
Ophi was born in Umpiem Mai refugee camp in Thailand. Her family was originally from Burma but fled to the refugee camp due to the civil war. Ophi shares that she was really shy when she first moved to America because she didn't look like the other kids and "didn't wear nice stuff like them." She explains "Now those experiences have changed me for the better. It taught me courage and self-confidence. It's okay for me to look different and speak different. It's a part of who I am." Ophi joined SWB in 7th grade. She aspires to go to college with a hope of working in International Development. Since coming to America as resettled refugees, Ophi and her family have become U.S. Citizens.
Bayan, SWB Oakland (Top), Player
Bayan is 17 and originally from Damascus, Syria. Her family fled their home in 2012 and spent three years in Jordan before relocating to Oakland, CA. Her family was one of the first refugee families from the Syrian conflict to be settled in Oakland. Bayan says that soccer has always been an outlet for her from the time she lived in Syria - it is a space where she can "go and tune out things that have made her sad." Bayan attends Oakland International High School, a unique community school specifically designed for newcomer youth, and the site of the very first SWB programming in the U.S..
Fatuma, SWB alumna, Young Leader
Fatuma is a graduate of SWB Oakland and is now a nursing student and volunteer assistant coach with SWB. She will represent Soccer Without Borders as a Young Leader at the Youth Festival in Lyon, attending a three day Youth Forum with young leaders from across the world to discuss ways to advance gender equality through soccer. Fatuma was born in a refugee camp in Kenya where her family lived for more than two decades after fleeing Somalia during the civil war. She moved to the U.S. as a teenager, and joined Soccer Without Borders although she had very little opportunity to play soccer before. Fatuma is now a U.S. Citizen, and hopes to give back to those who have been affected by violence and conflict as a nurse.
Kat Sipes, Senior Program Coordinator, Delegation Leader
Kat was born and raised in Baltimore, where she is now a coach and Senior Program Coordinator. She graduated from Towson University, where she competed for Towson Tigers and studied Communications. Kat joined SWB in 2014 and has held nearly every role at the program in Baltimore, building the Vanguard Middle School site and coaching the High School Boys. She has led the implementation of English-integrated soccer coaching practices at SWB, and contributed to the development of our key trauma-informed coaching tools. Kat spearheaded delegation selection alongside Fatuma, and will lead the delegation in France.
Veronica, Co-Director, Representative
Although the official World Cup delegation was limited to a single country, Soccer Without Borders has elected to support a second staff member to represent us on the global stage. Veronica has been Co-Director of SWB Nicaragua, our only location devoted entirely to girls, since 2015. She has been a coach at SWB since the very first days of our girls program in Granada, Nicaragua in 2008, and continues to play at the highest levels of women's soccer in Granada. Veronica is one of very few women in leadership positions in sport in Nicaragua, and has worked tirelessly to build girls teams, leadership opportinities, and academic advancement pathways where previously none existed.