Anaheim is not only the scene of protests surrounding officer-involved shootings, but in recent years, it has become the site of a mass influx of refugees, mostly from Iraq. California receives the largest number of refugees after Texas, and while it's not clear how many settle in Orange County, a sizable number pick Anaheim for its large Arab and Muslim network.
But despite living amongst a community that provides a sense of familiarity for them, refugees still face many obstacles in the United States--language barriers, culture shock, and the DMV, to name a few.
That's why an Irvine-based nonprofit, Tiyya Foundation, sought to give these refugees a piece of home and peace of mind with its second seasonal soccer camp at Brookhurst Junior High School this week.
Most of the participants in the camp are first generation and second generation immigrants with backgrounds in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Ethiopia.
"I don't want to generalize, but for a lot of people from back home, their way of gathering together is playing soccer," said Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, who co-founded Tiyya Foundation with her mother, Owliya Dima.
The camp bears no financial burden on the parents because it's free, and it provides a sense of community and a space to make new friends for their children, says Hussein-Cattan. "It sounds simple as an adult, but as a kid it's huge."
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Last winter, the nonprofit launched its first soccer camp for K-12 refugee youth. The group teamed up with the local chapter of Soccer Without Borders, who provided the camp with professional coaches including former U.S. National and Olympic soccer player John O'Brien.
"It kind of opens up my borders," O'Brien says. "We live in communities that are so diverse and sometimes we're not engaging with people from different walks of life," O'Brien said.
The camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon, during which the children play soccer and participate in arts, drama and music workshops. At the end of the camp, they will receive brand new school supplies.