Saturday, August 12, 2017

Houston soccer team brings identity and community to young refugees

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Brazilian playwright and journalist Nelson Falc√£o Rodrigues once said, “In football (soccer), the worst blindness is only seeing the ball,” a sentiment with which Houston: reVision CEO Charles Rotramel would probably agree. On a mildly hot Saturday in Spring, Texas, Rotramel stands next to the soccer field watching the reVision FC soccer team warm up with a ground passing game. He sees a team that has faced more adversity in their young lives than most of us will in a lifetime. The ball glides across the ground as the team of mostly African high school students comes to life. The match kicks off and reVision FC’s use of Swahili for on-field communication immediately stands out from other teams in the South Texas Youth Soccer Association. All students at Wisdom High School, most of the team came to Houston as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country rife with political instability. “We started with pickup games on Sunday afternoons and kids just kept coming,” Rotramel said. “Many of them had never played on a team before.” After months of watching them play on the field at the Gethsemane campus of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Rotramel, a member of St. Martin’s, Houston, decided to dip into his past and put a soccer team together. The story of reVision dates to Rotramel’s time at Rice University more than 30 years ago. After he wrote a paper on the impact a community of positivity can have on at risk youth, Rotramel’s professor challenged him to dream big. Ultimately, he helped found Youth Advocates, a Houston non-profit doing primarily gang intervention work.

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