PHOTO: Jill Lockhart surround by a group of children being helped through the "Soccer Without Borders" program.

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Coming Together Through Sport

Jill FlockhartInternational Studies Student Jill Flockhart spend internship helping young Ugandan refugees through Soccer Without Borders

By Emily Palmer

University of Idaho student Jill Flockhart’s final year of school is not all fun and games, but to youth refugees in Uganda, it may seem like it is.

As an international studies student, Flockhart attended the 2013 Borah Symposium “Sport for Development and Peace.” It was there she learned about the Soccer Without Borders program, an organization that provides positive changes through soccer and educational development for youths around the world.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain more experience in this field of work,” says Flockhart.

It ignited her desire to travel to Uganda and interact with youths in refugee camps through soccer. An estimated 40,000 refugees are living in Uganda.

It also was at the Borah Symposium that she connected with the founder of Soccer Without Borders about internship opportunities and began her application process.

As an international studies major, Flockhart’s emphasis was in Latin America and she originally hoped to work in a country in that region.

“I have always been interested in going abroad, even before learning about Soccer Without Borders, but I had never really considered Africa,” says Flockhart.

She’s glad she did consider Africa though. Flockhart instantly fell in love with the Soccer Without Borders program. After living in Uganda, experiencing the program first-hand and what she is accomplishing, her love for the country is even stronger.

“These kids are refugees that have had to flee their home countries for various reasons, leave everything behind, and yet are so full of happiness every day,” says Flockhart. “It’s almost impossible to be sad or feel down when you see the smiles on their faces when we arrive to teach class.”

Not only is Flockhart spending her own time and resources to make an impact on refugee children, but they in turn have made her life greater.

“Since coming to Uganda, I have learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know before. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone in so many ways, and have had to adapt,” says Flockhart. “It has taught me a lot about working with different cultures and how important it is to respect the differences.”

Life in Uganda can take some time adjusting to, Flockhart and her colleagues spent five days of intense training in Boston before their departure. There they learned what the program does and what they would be doing abroad.

“Anything that I read about life in Uganda could not have prepared me for what it is actually like. It took me a couple weeks to settle in, and I’d say at least a month to feel really comfortable here,” says Flockhart. “It has been great to see the beauty that Africa possesses.”

While the work that Flockhart is doing for Soccer without Borders has been a positive and life changing opportunity, being away from family and loved ones for so long is heavy on her heart.

“My least favorite part has been being so far away from my family, friends and my boyfriend,” says Flockhart. “This will be the first time ever not being with family for the holidays; it will be very difficult.”

But the life experience and education she is gaining makes the experience truly rewarding.