erin f. wasinger

stories of loving our neighbors, discernment, & other hard things

Tag: St Vincent Catholic Charities

Their story: Teaching players ‘what they’re capable of’

Damber Magar stands in his room surrounded by his sports trophies and academic certificates and diplomas at his home June 20, 2017 in Lansing. Photo by Dave Wasinger

Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.

Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.

At a practice this summer, their coach, Bai Lee, was especially working on positions with the boys and young men who’ve been playing the game since they were toddlers. Some of the players are brothers; a few knew each other when they lived in refugee camps, where children would crowd onto fields to play pick-up “football” games. Others practice with the team with little experience but a desire to connect.

“We don’t care if they don’t know how to kick the ball,” laughed Damber. “We will help them. … After a few months, a few years, they start playing well. They can handle themselves when they’re playing with other people. We can see their skills.”

But after practice, he said, “(the captains) try to tell them not about soccer, but about life.”

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Their story: ‘America offers everything’

“This is home,” Nael Al Saedi said, sitting on his couch one rainy Saturday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Dave Wasinger/ for STVCC

His family walked in and out of their living room, taking turns telling stories and listening to each other’s. The home has been theirs for less than a year — bought about seven years after arriving in Lansing as refugees.

Inside, the youngest helped herself to ice cream at the kitchen table. Outside, a red, white, and blue pinwheel spun in the landscaping.

This is home, he said.

Sixteen-year-old Hawraa’s consumed with schoolwork and volunteers at a local hospital. Ahmed, 9, is into soccer (“and recess,” he said). Nadaa, 8, likes reading, dancing, and running. His second daughter, Noor, 15, was at driver’s education class.

Al Saedi said he’s proud to watch his kids pursue their own ambitions — he’d hoped the children would have educational opportunities in America. But, he said, he wants them to remember how they got here.

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