The Reason We Are Here in the First Place

CWS Indonesia | April 17, 2018

Unaccompanied refugee children (UASC) soccer. Photo: CWS

For unaccompanied refugee children living in CWS-hosted group homes in Jakarta, Indonesia, soccer means something different than in many places. Played most by boys seeking asylum and safety from war-torn countries around the world, soccer represents a real kind of freedom – if only momentary freedom from worry and fear about the future.

While all the children, mostly teenage boys, who are smuggled into Indonesia by circuitous routes, think they are there to transit to a third country for a new life, almost all of them are stranded in Indonesia with little hope of onward asylum. While they are in CWS care and protection, each receives a small weekly allowance, most of which they pool with other youngsters to buy food that the cook communally. The other basics, which are truly basic, they get are a roof over their heads, a safe place to sleep – until they are 18 years old and lose CWS protection and care, which is only for unaccompanied children.

So, imagine, in such circumstances, how much three hours a week to play soccer must mean to these children. It is an active time in an open outdoor space where they can run, laugh … and even let off some steam, which surely builds up in living with 39 other children day in and day out. Some children excel and feel pride; others do less well, but keep trying and, no matter how they do at the sport, they love being active and outdoors.

Knowing that CWS organizes soccer outings for children in our protection, Indonesia Garuda Baru, a team of Indonesian homeless children participating in Street Child World Cup 2018, invited CWS to have a friendly match to help them prepare their World Cup debut. CWS staff readily accepted the invitation not least because our kids would have one more hour for their play time and get to know some Indonesian children, too, which they seldom have a chance to do. And, besides giving them more time on the field, another bonus is that their practice matches may help Indonesia win a very special World Cup!

Now, boys from a combined-shelter team are readying for the “friendly” challenge with excitement. In practicing with their new coach to play their very first match as a united team, to CWS staff, friends and financial supporters, they represent hope and resilience. And, nowhere is this exemplified better than by 16-year-old Aman* (*Not his real name) who was very happy when he was chosen for the team and received his TEAM CWS jersey … and new soccer shoes.

His being on the team is a special inspiration because, almost a year ago, Aman was referred to CWS for care because he was ill from living rough on the streets after a long journey from Afghanistan. With CWS support, Aman got to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis with Pneumothorax, and just two months ago he had a special, complicated medical procedure to get the water from his lungs – which worked, thank God.

For Aman to be able to play soccer once again as he did back in Afghanistan is a miracle for him. For CWS staff members, watching him being healthy and active reminds us of the reason we are here in the first place – to offer essential protection and care to some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Seeing Aman score a goal during the “friendly” match was just a bonus!

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