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Candle Lit Smiles
The bus was quieter than a house mouse. There were few whispers exchanged but they floated away like air. The bus shrieked to a complete stop as we arrived at Brophy College Preparatory. A smile grew on every kid’s face.
It was my third time volunteering with International Rescue Committee in Phoenix, an agency that helps resettle refugees into the United States. With my little experience, I had no clue what to expect from today’s activities.
” We are here!” The bus driver exclaimed.
The bus door flung open. The refugee kids cheerfully exited out of the bus one by one. They skipped onto the Brophy football field with a great deal of excitement. The kids knew they weren’t there to play football; they were there for “Play Day”.
Once everyone was successfully on the football field, we were gathered together and separated into different teams. My team consisted of two Burmese and two Burundian kids. My palms became moist as I thought of a way to communicate with them since only one of them knew how to speak English. I just overlooked it as fun had no language.
I wondered what we would do that today. So I went to an instructor and asked, “What are we going to do today?” He replied with a smile,” We are going to play different sports like hockey, lacrosse and soccer. I’m sure you all are gonna have fun! “He blew the whistle and the teams were off to their stations.
We started with a hockey game. We were given used, brown hockey sticks to hit a green tennis ball. The Brophy instructor, a hockey student-athlete, instructed us to take it easy and swerve the ball through the cones as fast as we can. Since I was first in line, I began this activity. With determination to be the best, I swerved around the cones as fast as I could; however, I knocked all the cones down. I had failed horribly. To everyone’s surprise, the Burmese kid that went after me completed the challenge very well. He rapidly led the tennis ball around the cones like he was a professional hockey player. When he got to the finish line, everyone gave him a high five for completing the task so flawlessly. He shocked all of us when he told us it was his first time doing that activity. Unfortunately, the whistle blew and it was time to go to the next station.
The next station was all about lacrosse. The objective of the game was to scoop up the solid white lacrosse ball into the lacrosse stick before your opponent does. The best match up of that station was when a refugee kid from Burma went head to head with a Burundian. Their attempt to get the ball into their lacrosse stick seemed like an eternity. When one had the possession of the ball, the other player would shove the kid, and the ball would fly into the air and land on the ground with a thunderous thud. They began to fight for the ball again. This cycle went on for ten minutes straight, while the other games were completed in second. Eventually, the Burundian child obtained the ball to win it. Although the Burmese kid lost, he came back in line with a smile and was ready for another game. We were about to play another game but the whistle blew and it was time to go to the next station.
The last but most memorable station was when we played soccer. We picked out our teammates and each player was assigned a position. When the ball was set, everyone’s game face suddenly appeared. The whistle blew. It was time to play some soccer!
We started off with the ball and my teammate passed it to me. Unfortunately, the ball was intercepted by the opponent and they immediately scored a goal. In despair, our team was given the ball again. For the second time, my teammate passed it to me. It was a successful pass. I dribbled the ball to the corner of the field, and I curved kick the ball back to my Burmese teammate. He perfectly executed a gainer, a back flip goal, and ball zoomed right pass the adult goalie. The cracking sound of the ball hitting the net was music to all of our ears. The refugee kids all screamed, “Goal!” like the sports announcers. We celebrated with laughter and smiles. To my surprise, teammates from the other team ran to him to celebrate this spectacular goal. They didn’t care they that he was their opponent. He had made a great shot. And for that, we lifted him up to show our amazement and we gave each other high fives. We all truly lived the moment.
Even though the celebration lasted a minute, the smiles on each of the refugee’s face was priceless. It didn’t matter where they were from, their background, or the color of their skin, they all banded together to celebrate that astonishing goal. It was really all about having fun with each other no matter what the circumstances were. It was a memory I would never forget