Liz Blum has been Tiyya’s Soccer Coordinator for many years! As she preps for organizing Tiyya’s Fifth Annual Soccer Tournament, we asked what motivates her to help the community create a space to play soccer for refugee youth in Orange County.
Question: How is Tiyya’s Soccer Program Beneficial to Refugee Youth?
Liz: Well, there's one participant I've gotten to know very well named Monty. He came to the US with his family from Baghdad 8 years ago. His parents sought safety from war and greater opportunities for their two sons. As a child arriving in a new place, Monty struggled to understand a new language, culture, and surroundings.
As with many children who arrive with their families as refugees, the transition was difficult and forced Monty to mature beyond his years.
Monty began to pick up the language and supported his parents with translation during their resettlement process. Not long after arriving in the United States, Monty joined Tiyya's Youth Soccer Program. It was here that he was able to meet other youth going through the same transition as him. He's been in the program for 7 years now!
Q: How did Tiyya's Soccer Program Start?
Liz: The Program began in conjunction with Soccer Without Borders in 2011. Tiyya created the program to address the needs of the children of the refugee families who were arriving in the United States and didn't have a sense of community.
I would specifically like to thank the following:
Robbie Fox, who has been in the program since it's inception and travels further than any other volunteer to ensure that refugee youth have the opportunity to play and learn each Saturday!
Hydraflow, for providing the beautiful and safe soccer facility for the youth to gather and practice each week.
And Bryan Lee, who supported in designing the program and brought so much growth and process to each session's lessons.
Q: What does the Soccer Program look like today? How many youth are enrolled?
Liz: The program is now self-sustaining (due to fundraising efforts each year during the Annual Spring Soccer Tournament and Halloween-themed Monster Cup!) and provides a safe and open environment for more than 60 youth (and counting!) from all over the world to congregate, learn, and grow together. Tiyya kids practice soccer and also participate in character building activities to enrich and inspire their lives.
Transportation is provided by Tiyya's dedicated volunteers who help ensure that there are no barriers to youth participation in the Program. Coaches act not only as teachers of the sport but also mentors and friends to the kids. Currently, we are facing a high demand for the Program and are in need of volunteer coaches (no experience in soccer necessary, but helpful!).
We are also in need of resources to create ongoing opportunities for the youth. Through monetary donations, we are able to provide healthy snacks, field trips, transportation, field supplies, uniforms, and gear the youth. The program is funded each year through the Annual Adult Soccer Tournament and Fundraiser.
Q: Tell us more about the Soccer Tournament? How does one participate?
Liz: Tiyya's Annual Soccer Tournament is an adult soccer tournament intended to bring the wider Tiyya community together, to raise awareness, and to raise funding to sustain the Program each year. This event includes soccer (obviously), but also a variety of games, activities, food, and learning opportunities for all in attendance!
This year, the tournament is on Saturday, March 24th! The adult tournament games will run from 9 am to 5 pm and the rest of the action and activities will be from 10 am to 2 pm. We will be recognizing some special Tiyya supporters as well!
You can participate by volunteering the day of the event, playing as a free agent (and we will assign you to a team), come with a team of your own, or just come, enjoy the day, and donate to support the Tiyya kids!!
We would like to thank Liz Blum for all of her hard work and dedication over the years. She's had such a positive impact for so many youth and community as a whole. Thank you for all you do, Liz!