REACH Edmonton

A soccer team for Syrian men in Edmonton is building more than just a sports team.

Working with the newcomer Syrian community, it was discovered that there is a gap in positive community programming specifically for men.

There was an immediate need for this kind of initiative, which was overwhelmingly welcomed by the community. 

Since October 2018, the team has been playing regular games with the support of a number of community organizations.

“Although REACH took a leadership role and helped to organize and oversee the project, we would like to emphasize that this project is very much a collaborative project,” said Jay Aggarwal, project manager at REACH Edmonton. “It was conceived of at an interagency working-group meeting and supported and endorsed by other immigrant-serving agencies.

“It’s actual community, not just soccer,” said Aggarwal. “I saw the palpable pride on their faces, wearing this jersey with the Syrian flag on it.”

Recreation is proven to be a protective factor, that fosters the social supports that people need while adjusting to life in a new country and culture.

“This is especially important when coming to a new country where your whole identity is shifting,” said Aggarwal.  “It’s essential that they have something here and now to be proud of.”

This positivity has spread beyond the individuals on the team, attracting the support of the entire community.

“It attracts the whole family,” said Aggarwal. “They’re building a community where people can come and get together and feel proud of their heritage and have that community of support.”