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One Journey Soccer Fest Builds Understanding and Connection for Area Refugee Communities

Last Sunday, a few hundred adults, youth, and volunteers braved 95-degree heat to take part in the One Journey Soccer Fest on the Fields at RFK Campus. Eight talented teams took part in an adult soccer tournament, and a youth soccer clinic gave kids and young teens a chance to learn new skills, play practice games, and test their abilities in a juggling contest.

But this was more than a sports day. The event brought together players and family members of local refugee communities and the general public who, through their love of the game, made new friendships while building mutual understanding and respect. “The event was a great success,” said one of the One Journey organizers. “It exceeded all our expectations.” The One Journey Soccer Fest hosted roughly a few hundred participants throughout the day, including organizers, volunteers, soccer players, and local families.

“I’m happy we’re supporting such a good cause.”

Many of the players in the adult tournament were excited to be engaging in the event and proud of the work it was accomplishing for the local community. Carlo, a soccer player who played with the team Euro Fever, said that he had a great time at the event.

“The organizers have done an amazing job of setting the fields up, and the teams have been really competitive while playing,” Carlo said. “Most of all, I’m happy that we’re supporting such a good cause because it’s been a lot of fun today. We heard about this event through District Sports, since they always give shout-outs to charity events and soccer tournaments.”

Team Effort of Partners and Volunteers

A local non-profit organization that connects D.C. residents through soccer, District Sports was a crucial part of the event’s smooth operation. It hosted registration for the adult tournament on its company platform, provided the permit for the field reservation, advised on the tournament structure and pricing, and supplied equipment, advertising and marketing, prizes, and network access.

Along with the soccer players and families, volunteers from One Journey and area businesses pitched in to help. Mona Hudhud and Darsh Patel, who work as consultants with Accenture as part of the international firm’s Middle East employee resource group, volunteered throughout the event and were delighted to participate. Patel said that he enjoyed helping and working with the local groups and families at the event.

“One of the One Journey organizers sent us this opportunity via email and asked us to volunteer if we had time,” Hudhud said. “It has been great to meet people and watch the little kids play while helping out. Overall, it was definitely a great experience.

L.A.C.E.S. was One Journey’s other partner for the event. This inspiring nonprofit helps children engage with their communities through playing sports. Several adults working with L.A.C.E.S. volunteered during the event and brought many of the refugee children they mentor, who took part in the youth soccer clinic and had lots of fun playing and testing their skills with their new friends.

“There was a lot of excitement among the children and L.A.C.E.S. to be able to come out together and play soccer again today,” said Leah Thirkill, a senior coordinator for L.A.C.E.S. “We are also excited to do more events like this in the future, in order to get kids and their communities together to celebrate our differences and our common love of soccer.

Building Bridges, Connecting People

Before the event ended, several event organizers offered brief remarks to provide background and context on the event, explaining One Journey's cause along with the work being done to support local refugee communities. Speakers included One Journey co-founder Vanda Berninger and event organizer Jonas Tizabi.

Tizabi, who has been working with One Journey and Accenture to support refugee communities while also advocating with local government officials to drive the development of purpose-built facilities to meet the needs of this evolving demographic, was thrilled with the turnout for the event and is excited to hold more events soon.

“I enjoy getting people together, and I’ve been playing soccer my entire life,” Tizabi said. “So when I got involved with One Journey, I figured we could organize a soccer event to build bridges and bring people together while celebrating through soccer.”

And the Trophy Goes to …

As the afternoon came to an end, the team AFG United emerged victorious, winning the tournament and taking home the trophy. Voice of America team was on hand to cover the event and the celebration. Additionally, the winner was announced for the raffle for a D.C. United jersey autographed by Julian Gressel. One Journey sends its heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers, partners, and the organizing team that made the One Journey Soccer Fest run so well. What a great day!


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