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Community helps fund refugee kids' dreams of playing soccer

Des Moines Refugee Support helped organize fundraisers to send 30 kids to play organized soccer.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Imagine coming to a new country as a young child, not speaking the language and not knowing anyone. 

Wanting to play a sport you love, but running into obstacle after obstacle. 

Des Moines Refugee Support is a nonprofit run by Erin Bell, who has a big heart and an even bigger vision for supporting thousands of refugees in central Iowa. 

Bell saw the passion for soccer among many of the refugee children, and knew she had to find a way to bring their dream of playing organized soccer to life.

"It's been a goal of ours to give these kids normal childhood experiences that a lot of us take for granted," Bell said. "And so we are trying to do everything we can to give them access to the sport that they love so much."

Bell raised money through the nonprofit to pay for the kids' cleats, shinguards, registration fees and other items associated with playing an organized sport. 

This week, the kids are trying out for a spot on Des Moines Soccer Club teams.

President Matt Trettin said he's excited about bringing the kids together with their passion.

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"Our goal is to foster a positive and accessible youth soccer experience," Trettin said. "So when we saw her community and Erin reached out to us, we were thrilled to be able to offer the opportunity for more kids to play soccer."

And the kids trying out to play are happy to play their favorite sport.

Esanda Kilozo, Tumaini Abew and Sambatu Shenger all have dreams of being star athletes. All of them said they like soccer because they get to meet new friends.

"I want to play and I want to try new things and it's my dream."

Trettin agreed the sport allows kids of all backgrounds to play as one team.

"We see kids learning little bits of each other's languages and spending time together and it's that integration that's really neat to see," he said.

Transporting the kids to practice and future games remains the biggest obstacle for the group. You can donate to Des Moines Refugee Support here.

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