‘A Universal Language’

by | Dec 4, 2023 | News

On Sept. 14, 2023, Sisters and staff of Nazareth met with representatives from Louisville-based LouCity & Racing Foundation and the Hamida Nadim Memorial Fund to explore possible future collaboration with the mission of uplifting youth and families in Louisville.

LouCity & Racing Foundation is the charitable arm of the men’s and women’s professional soccer clubs in Louisville. Recently, a new scholarship fund was launched by this Foundation to support refugee families in the city, as Louisville ranks among the top in taking in refugees from other countries. The scholarship fund, named the Hadima Nadim Memorial Fund, was established in honor of the mother of Nadia Nadim, a Racing Louisville star player and refugee herself.

Nadia, her mother and her sisters were living in Afghanistan when the Taliban executed her father, an Afghan National Army general. Faced with an oppressive environment that severely restricted women’s rights and freedoms, Nadia and her family took a harrowing journey to escape and seek a better life. At the tender age of 11, they were smuggled out of their homeland and eventually found themselves in a refugee camp in Denmark.

It was at this camp that a young Nadia was introduced to soccer (or football as it is known outside of the U.S.) The sport offered a therapeutic outlet that not only bolstered her confidence but also fostered a sense of community and transcended cultural barriers.

“I feel my life kind of started,” Nadia said of arriving at the camp. “I fell in love with the game.”

Nadia’s love of the sport blossomed into a professional career, representing the Denmark national team at the international level and playing with the National Women’s Soccer League club for Racing Louisville FC. She continues to play today while also having recently completed her medical doctorate.

Last year, Nadia’s mother was tragically killed in a traffic accident. Nadia was inspired to honor the brave, strong and caring woman who had shown so much resilience, strength and guidance to her in her life.

“My mom was someone who cared about people around her,” Nadia said. “She always made sure we were people who would give back” and understood the impact of kindness.

The Memorial Fund, in its first year, was able to support two refugee families, awarding each $5,000 to help with their living situations. Those families were led by single mothers, which seemed fitting.

The Memorial Fund and the Foundation collaborated in this endeavor by offering those children soccer-related opportunities. These opportunities are extended both to refugee and non-refugee youth, including access to camps, clinics, potential scholarships for academy play, educational programming and more.

“Our goal is to be able to support youth soccer and provide opportunities to all kids regardless of financial capabilities,” said Jeremy Jarvi, executive director of LouCity & Racing Foundation. Soccer is a platform for reaping the many benefits that come along with sports, such as teaching accountability, humility and communication.

Nadia said soccer and sport is a universal language. She knows from firsthand experience the community that can be found among a group of those playing the game, regardless of differences in culture and background.

“You’re coming from a different world, don’t know the language, look different and feel alienated, and then you get on the football field, and you are part of a team,” she said.

The focus of the Foundation extends beyond athletics and looks to build youth up and promote positive relationships and community for kids of various demographics.

“Part of our mission is providing programming, whether it’s going into schools, afterschool programs, partnering with Kentucky Refugee Ministries to provide access to these kids in their neighborhoods,” said George Davis, IV, program director for the Foundation.

On Thursday, when Nadia and the Foundation staff visited Nazareth Motherhouse Campus, they met with Jackulin Jesu, SCN, president of the Congregation, SCNs Lisa Polega and Amina Bejos, who both work with youth in Louisville, and staff with the Office of Mission Advancement to share about their mission to continue to help youth and families in Louisville.

Sister Jacky said that Sisters are already working with youth and families in Louisville through various outlets, so a collaboration with the Racing Foundation would fit well with the Sisters’ mission.

Sister Lisa and Sister Amina praised the organizations for their outreach and agreed that future collaboration could be beneficial to the children and teens they work with. Sister Amina, a teacher with Presentation Academy in Louisville, said Nadia’s story was one of inspiration that could be shared with her high school students.

“I teach girls, and I am very much about how can I empower my girls,” Sister Amina said.

Sister Lisa, who works with abused and neglected children navigating family court in Louisville, acknowledged how athletic activities and opportunities can offer a therapeutic outlet for children impacted by trauma. As someone who experienced her own childhood trauma, Nadia said sports was something she could control and that helped her grow and overcome.

“It’s giving kids a tool,” she said.

Both the Louisville and Nazareth groups agreed to continue to look at ways in which their respective organizations could work together to have a positive, sustainable impact on children and families locally.

Source: https://nazareth.org/