The Safe Passage Project, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to immigrant minors, is using soccer to provide undocumented high school women living in New York with a team of support.
The nonprofit’s Alexandra Rizio, a senior staff attorney, and social worker Samantha Norris coach the Las Cheetas Chulas soccer team in the South Bronx through a league organized by South Bronx United. The high school students are seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape violent conditions in their home countries in Central America.
“Because many of the girls have suffered severe trauma, violence in the home country, violence on the journey here, and then a big adjustment period here in New York, soccer is a break for them,” Rizio said. “It’s kind of a bright spot in their week.”
The girls’ involvement in the sport helps empower them and builds trust with their coaches, who are also working on their cases. “It leads into them being more confident in discussing things that happened to them, which contributes to their legal case,” Rizio added.
The players themselves also speak highly of the program. “The energy that it gives you,” Lucia, a 19 year old from Honduras, told The Huffington Post in Spanish. “The positive attitude you have when you play soccer, that’s what amazes me.”
This video wasproduced by Susannah Gruder and Samantha Storey, edited by Ethan Kirby and shot by Soraya Auer